Chinese mushrooms can improve physical well-being

More than 1,500 years ago, cattle and sheep grazing in the Himalayan meadows were drawn to an unusual mushroom-like grass. Soon, herdsman saw a significant increase in strength and agility of their herds. Just 11 years ago, Chinese women athletes astounded the world of international track and field by setting several new records at the 1993 Chinese National Games.

Their remarkable performances caused many to speculate that illicit drug use was responsible for their success. The Chinese coach disagreed, pointing instead to intense, high-altitude training and a stress-relieving tonic prepared from a "caterpillar fungus." In both of these circumstances, the source of the increased energy was the Cordyceps mushroom, found primarily in isolated areas of southwestern China.

Nutritionists have since joined with manufacturers to produce supplements using fermentation from this rare mushroom. One such product is CordyMax®, made with a formula recognized in China as the fermented Cordyceps mushroom mycelial product. CordyMax® has been placed under intellectual property protection, and only one company has the license for it outside of China. The company, Pharmanex, Inc., suggests that CordyMax® may be used by people with busy and hectic lifestyles and the elderly— i.e., those desiring greater stamina and vitality levels without stimulation of the central nervous system.

A New Study
The research team behind the development of CordyMax® will be presenting the scientific foundation of their supplement before one of the world’s leading meeting of physiologists. The study sought to evaluate the effects of CordyMax (a mycelial fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis) on enhancing exercise capability and endurance, and on acting against fatigue in healthy humans.

Their presentation, "CordyMax Enhances Aerobic Capability, Endurance Performance, and Exercise Metabolism in Healthy, Mid-age to Elderly Sedentary Humans," will be part of the American Physiological Society’s (APS) ( annual scientific conference, Experimental Biology 2003, being held April 17-21, 2004, at the Washington, D.C. Convention

Center. The researchers are Jia-Shi Zhu, M.D., Ph.D. and James Rippe, M.D. from Pharmanex, LLC, Provo, UT, and Rippe Lifestyle Institute, Shrewsbury, MA.

This was a clinical trial with a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled design. One hundred thirty one volunteers were participated in this trial. These individuals were healthy, sedentary males and females of age 40-70. The study employed sports physiology methods, measuring exercise capacity, endurance performance, and exercise related metabolic alterations before, in the middle of, and after the 12-week study treatment with CordyMax (3 g/day).

The researchers found:

(1) Maximal exercise

  • Peak volume of oxygen (VO2peak) consumption was increased by 5.5% in CordyMax group (p=0.003), but by only 2.2% in placebo group (NS). This suggests increases in aerobic exercise capacity by CordyMax.

  • The time to VO2peak was increased by 4.1% in CordyMax group (p=0. 047), but no change in placebo group. This suggests increases in physical strength for aerobic exercise by CordyMax.

    (2) Sub-maximal, endurance exercise

  • The time for 1-mle walk was reduced by 29 sec in CordyMax group (p=0. 05), but slightly increased in placebo group (+19 sec, NS). This suggests enhanced endurance performance by CordyMax.

  • Exercise work output by use of Jeukendrup bike test was increased by 3.1% in CordyMax group (p=0. 033), but fell in placebo group (-4.9%, NS). This suggests enhanced endurance performance by CordyMax.

  • Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER) was reduced by 2.1% in CordyMax group (p=0. 018), but no change in placebo group. This suggests improvement in exercise metabolism by CordyMax.

    (3) General conditions

  • Body Weight was reduced by 0.78% in CordyMax group (p=0. 039), but increased by 0.42% in placebo group. This suggests weight control effects of CordyMax.

  • Diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 3.2% in CordyMax group (p=0.045), but no significant changes in placebo group (NS). This suggests BP lowering effects of CordyMax.

    Numerous supplements are introduced to consumers offering only anecdotal evidence that these products are effective and safe. This study provides scientific evidence that CordyMax® is effective in enhancing aerobic exercise capability, endurance exercise performance, and exercise metabolism and alleviating fatigue in healthy humans.

    The American Physiological Society (APS) is America’s oldest biomedical sciences research society. The not-for-profit society, with some 11,000 members, is the publisher of 14 scientific journals, including the American Journal of Physiology, which has been published since 1898.

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