D Mushrooms

Mushrooms naturally contain vitamin D. Wild mushrooms have higher levels of vitamin D due to the action of ultra-violet (UV) light in the sunlight on their surface.

In technical terms, when sunlight hits the surface of the mushroom it stimulates the conversion of a substance called ergosterol (a component of the mushroom cell walls) to vitamin D2. When consumed, this vitamin D2 converts to the active form of vitamin D via the liver and the kidneys.

Up until recently, there have been only small amounts of vitamin D2 in commercially-grown mushrooms. The reason for this is that mushrooms grow well in darkness and additional lighting tends to affect growing room temperature and running costs.

Since 2005, a series of experiments examined the effect of light on vitamin D2 production in mushrooms. Essentially the experiments have replicated nature by using UV light in the mushroom growing process to stimulate consistent and guaranteed levels of vitamin D.

In 2007, research from Pennsylvania State University in the United States showed that light applied to commercial mushrooms dramatically boosted vitamin D2 to levels relevant to public health.

Encouraged by this finding, the University of Western Sydney then completed a trial in 2010 using light exposure and found that mushrooms can easily reach the Australian daily Adequate Intake levels of vitamin D in a single serve. This study also showed that vitamin D is stable and well absorbed from the mushroom.

In the United States, mushroom growers have produced commercial quantities of vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms since 2009. The good news for consumers is that vitamin D-enhanced Australian-grown mushrooms are now available.

In Australia, mushroom growers are using a pulsed UV light as part of the production process in order to trigger the generation of vitamin D. After they are picked, mushrooms are placed on a conveyor belt and passed under pulsed light for one to two seconds. This small amount of light is able to produce vitamin D2 levels of at least 10 mcg (400 IU), the amount recommended each day for adults 51-70 years.

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