Mushrooms and vitamin D
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Mushrooms and Vitamin D

The Lowdown on Vitamin D

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that light-skin people should obtain 1000 IU (International Units) per day during fall and winter, and dark-skin people should obtain 1000 IU year-round.

Health Canada recommends the following for Vitamin D Consumption:

Age GroupRecommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per day**Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) per day
Infants 0-6 months400 IU (10 mcg)*1000 IU (25 mcg)
Infants 7-12 months400 IU (10 mcg)*1500 IU (38 mcg)
Children 1-3 years600 IU (15 mcg)2500 IU (63 mcg)
Children 4-8 years600 IU (15 mcg)3000 IU (75 mcg)
Children and Adults 9-70 years600 IU (15 mcg)4000 IU (100 mcg)
Adults > 70 years800 IU (20 mcg)4000 IU (100 mcg)
Pregnancy & Lactation600 IU (15 mcg)4000 IU (100 mcg)
* Adequate Intake rather than Recommended Dietary Allowance. ** The IOM report states that there are no additional health benefits associated with vitamin D intakes above the level of the new RDA. Total vitamin D intake should remain below the level of the new UL to avoid possible adverse effects. Long-term intakes above the UL increase the risk of adverse health effects.

The Daily Recommended Intake for Vitamin D

Since 1920, it has been known that the main role of Vitamin D is to work with Calcium and Phosphorus to make strong bones. Recent findings suggest that Vitamin D also helps to:

  • prevent bone fractures
  • reduce the risk of diabetes in young people
  • protect against heart disease
  • reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis
  • improve lung function

Mushrooms Have Vitamin D

Mushrooms are the only vegetable that contains Vitamin D, naturally. All other natural food sources of Vitamin D are of animal, poultry or seafood origin. Also, some foods, such as milk, orange juice and cereals may be fortified with Vitamin D, up to 100 IU.

Cultivated mushrooms contain a plant sterol called ergosterol, which is the precursor of Vitamin D². In fresh mushrooms, ergosterol is stimulated to convert to Vitamin D² by ultraviolet light, either from sunlight or artificial lights.

The vitamin D levels of common varieties of mushrooms are listed below for a standard 100 g serving. 200 IU is recommended for adults up to the age of 50.

Adding Vitamin D to Fresh Mushrooms

It has been demonstrated in recent studies that the level of Vitamin D² in White/Brown mushrooms can be increased significantly (up to 100% of the Daily Value), by exposure to ultraviolet light for a few minutes, either pre-harvest or post-harvest. When this technology is perfected, Super-D mushrooms may be available, to the public, as a vegetable source of Vitamin D.

How the World is Working to Add More Vitamin D to Mushrooms

In order to incorporate a UV treatment system into a commercial mushroom farm, some technical questions must be answered. For example:

  • Where is the best location for UV-treatment, in the growing rooms (pre-harvest) or in the packing room (post-harvest)?
  • What is the best source of UV light, distance from the mushrooms and duration of exposure?
  • What is the shelf life of treated mushrooms?
  • Do white mushrooms discolour? How much?
  • If so, are brown mushrooms the preferred variety?
  • Does the level of Vitamin D decrease with time?

In Canada, Mushrooms Canada has sponsored research at the Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC) to determine the appropriate UVB light dosage to achieve 100% RDA levels (400 IU) in fresh, white and brown mushrooms. The study includes shelf-life, discolouration, and microbiology of the treated products.

The Australian Mushroom Growers Association (AMGA) has researched intermittent UV-light exposure in a growing room, pre-harvest. Vitamin D² will be measured in the mushrooms, 4 and 8 days post-harvest. The objective was to license a Vitamin D² process for mushroom growers.

In the USA, The Mushroom Council and the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA are studied the time and dosage of UVB light treatment up to 4 days post-harvest and Vitamin D² degradation during storage.

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