The potential for mushrooms to fight influenza is being examined following United States research suggesting the body's natural immune response against viral infections and tumours is boosted through the consumption of white button mushrooms.
Tufts University laboratory research published in The Journal of Nutrition showed mushroom intake was able to enhance the body's own bug fighters, killer cells and cytokines, the latter being hormone-like proteins that play an important role in defending the body against viral infections and tumours.
Accredited Practising Dietitian and healthy eating specialist, Glenn Cardwell, said the research highlighted that mushrooms may boost the body's natural immune system.
"Laboratory research found that the intake of mushrooms may promote innate immunity - the body's first line of defence - against viruses. Further studies involving influenza infection are now underway to test these findings."
Mr Cardwell said the current trials are examining the impact of different mushroom intake levels against the influenza virus, looking at both the immune response and the clearance of the virus.
"The evidence gained in the study will assist researchers to better understand the underlying mechanism of immune response and lead to longer term plans to directly test the effectiveness in human clinical trials."
"What they are essentially looking for is how mushrooms - one of Nature's true superfoods - can be used as a real food 'elixir of immunity' to help prevent influenza.
Mr Cardwell said current concerns over the impact of influenza, particularly the swine flu, highlighted the need to eat a balanced diet that includes foods that can naturally boost the immune system.
"While it is always tempting to reach for a quick fix vitamin or medical supplement, real food alternatives, such as the mushroom, are a healthier long term choice," he said.