The Health Benefits of AHCC

The Mushroom Extract Is Believed to Boost Immune Health

Fresh-picked Shitake Mushrooms in a basket, Loire, France
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AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) is a natural substance extracted from certain species of basidiomycetes, a class of mushrooms that includes shiitake.

Available in supplement form, AHCC is known to act as an antioxidant. While research on AHCC's health effects is fairly limited, proponents claim that taking AHCC can produce a variety of health benefits.

Health Benefits

In alternative medicine, AHCC is said to stimulate the immune system and increase your defense against viral infections, including the flu and the common cold. Many proponents also suggest that AHCC can help protect against cancer and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. In addition, AHCC is said to help prevent heart disease and treat hepatitis.

So far, few clinical trials have tested the effects of AHCC. Still, some preliminary research shows that AHCC may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at several key findings from the available research.

Immune System

AHCC may help boost immunity, according to a small 2008 clinical trial in Nutrition and Cancer. For the study, 21 healthy volunteers took either an AHCC supplement or a placebo every day for four weeks. At the study's end, members of the AHCC group showed a significantly greater increase in the number of dendritic cells—a type of cell involved in the immune response.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Animal-based research shows that AHCC may help reduce certain side effects of chemotherapy. For instance, in a 2009 report from the Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology, scientists discovered that treating mice with AHCC helped shield them from chemotherapy-induced liver damage and bone marrow suppression. However, it's too soon to tell whether AHCC may also help alleviate chemotherapy side effects in humans.

Cancer

AHCC may help inhibit cancer development, according to a 2006 animal-based study in Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy. In an experiment involving mice inoculated with cancer cells, AHCC treatment significantly enhanced immune response and delayed tumor development.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

AHCC shows promise in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. In a 2007 study on rats (Journal of Nutrition), researchers found that AHCC helped reduce inflammation and enhanced several markers of colon health in rats with colitis.

Flu

In tests on mice, scientists have demonstrated that AHCC may help rev up the immune response to flu infection. For example, in a 2006 study from the Journal of Nutrition, AHCC appeared to reduce the severity of flu infection and boost activity in natural killer cells (a major player in immune response) in influenza-infected mice.

Possible Side Effects

Little is known about the safety of long-term use of AHCC. However, there's some concern that AHCC may trigger mild side effects, including bloating, diarrhea, itching, foot cramps, and fatigue. There have also been reports of feeling feverish or elevated body temperature after daily use of AHCC.

You should not take AHCC if you are taking drugs that are substrates of cytochrome P450 2D6 or medications that are changed by the liver, as the supplement can decrease the drug's effect. Check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider to see if your medication may be affected.

Dosage and Preparation

There is no recommended dose of AHCC. However, doses ranging from 4.5 to 6 grams daily have been used safely for up to six months. A lower dose of three 3 grams daily has been used safely for up to nine years.

The right dose for you may depend on several factors, including your age, gender, and medical condition. Seek personalized advice from your healthcare provider.

What to Look For

You'll find AHCC supplements in many health food stores and online. The capsules or softgels are often combinations of AHCC and other compounds or ingredients. Doses range from 300mg to 750mg or more.

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend AHCC for any health condition. What's more, there's insufficient evidence to support the claim that AHCC can prevent cancer.

To lower your overall cancer risk, the National Cancer Institute recommends you avoid cigarette-smoking and tobacco use; limit your exposure to radiation, and get screened for pre-cancerous conditions. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a normal weight may also help prevent cancer.

If you're considering the use of AHCC for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician. Self-treating a chronic condition with AHCC and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Additionally, use recommended practices when buying your supplements. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that you look for a Supplement Facts label on the product that you buy. This label will contain important information including the amount of active ingredients per serving, and whether or not the product contains other added ingredients like fillers, binders, and flavorings.

Lastly, the organization suggests that you look for a product that contains a seal of approval from a third-party organization that provides quality testing. These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

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Article Sources

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