Mushrooms are known for their distinctive flavour and nutritional value. They have high contents of proteins, carbohydrate, dietary fibre, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals at the same time low in calorie value. Mushrooms have been investigated for the presence of bioactive compounds with medicinal properties such as phenolic compounds, polyketides, terpenes, steroids, β-carotenes, β-glucans, lovastatin and some vitamins, such as A, D2, C and E.

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Edible mushrooms synthesize ergosterol (5, 7, 22-ergostatrien-3β-ol) as their principal sterol and is the integral part of hyphal membranes. It plays several essential roles in maintaining the plasma membrane functions such as regulation of membrane fluidity and permeability, biosynthesis of plasma membrane, etc. The fungal sterols are collectively known as mycosterols. They occur in free and esterified form and have gained prominence due to their potential activities beneficial for human health.

fresh raw chestnut mushrooms slices cutting board

Ergosterol is considered as the most generously synthesized fungal sterol, especially in the species such as Agaricus bisporus, Lentinus edodes, Boletus edulis, Hygrophorus marzuolus, Pleurotus ostreatus. It presents structural resemblance with phytosterols and cholesterol, so might act analogously to phytosterols in reducing cholesterol absorption. Ergosterol has been reported to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-proliferative, antimicrobial and anti-hyperlipidemic activities, demonstrated through in vitro and in vivo studies. This bioactive molecule is considered as a potential candidate in cancer therapy without any major harmful side effects. [1, 2]

Table 1 - Free ergosterol content in various edible mushrooms (expressed in mg of ergosterol per gram of dry weight

White Button Mushrooms

India has gained global attention for the production of various exotic mushrooms. Scientific community investigated various mushrooms in the search of novel therapeutic bioactives alternative for commercial drugs in the treatment of lifestyle diseases. White button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) contain a varied range of bioactive components with significant health benefits. They are considered as one of the most extensively produced and consumed edible mushrooms worldwide. [3]

They are reported to be one of the richest sources of ergosterol. They also have high contents of polyphenols, ergothioneine, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), important vitamins and minerals. Many studies have investigated the potential antioxidant activity of aqueous, methanolic and ethanolic extracts through in-vitro and in-vivo studies from this mushroom [4]. The extracts prepared from Agaricus bisporus thus considered as a wealth of secondary metabolites exerting significant biological activities, nevertheless it remained as an underutilized source of nutraceuticals. Ergosterol-enriched fungal extracts are potential sources of bioactive molecules that could impair cholesterol absorption and also inhibit its biosynthesis. Thus, white button mushrooms could be utilized primarily for hypocholesterolemic activity exhibited by mycosterols [2].

Mycosterol Extraction

Development of fast and efficient extraction technologies for extracting ergosterol and crucial bioactives from mushroom has been a great concern for the scientific community. Conventional extraction methods such as maceration, hydro-distillation, pressing, infusion, percolation and soxhlet extraction are widely reported by researchers to obtain bioactive rich extracts from mushrooms. Utilization of non-toxic solvents like water, carbon-dioxide and ethanol is under consideration for optimizing the extraction technologies. But these methods have certain limitations including extensive use of solvents, prolong time and use of high temperatures may cause partial loss of valuable target components.

The species of mushrooms considered as rich source of mycosterols especially ergosterol
The species of mushrooms considered as rich source of mycosterols especially ergosterol

The most innovative and promising technologies are non-conventional methods such as ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE), microwave assisted extraction (MAE), supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) and subcritical water extraction (SWE). Extraction method has significant impact on the recovery of ergosterol, so optimization of the conditions (types of the solvents, extraction time, solid to liquid ratio) for extraction is a major concern. Numerous studies successfully explored innovative extraction techniques focused on green chemistry for extracting valuable bioactive compounds from mushrooms. [3]

Application in Food and Pharma Industry

Application of innovative technology can enhance the extractability of important mycosterols such as ergosterol from different variety of mushrooms. Fungal extract enriched in ergosterol is a potential source of valuable biomolecules that can promote significant health benefits. Ergosterol enriched extract is promising in the development of novel drugs, nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. The intake of food products enriched with ergosterol might mitigate various life-style diseases and also can contribute to vitamin D related health benefits related to muscle function, bone homeostasis and boosting immunity. [1]

Effect of mycosterols from mushroom on liver health per gram of dry weight
Effect of mycosterols from mushroom on liver health per gram of dry weight

The isolation and optimization of the novel mycosterols and its derivatives is still underexploited. The challenges that science could seek to overcome this can be the substantial study on the application of mycosterols for the development of functional food formulations to address many limitations related to the production of mycosterol enriched foods. Further the evaluation of the food products with respect to its nutritional quality, efficacy of bioavailability, stability as well sensorial effectiveness are the urgent requirement.

Most importantly extensive scientific clinical trials should confirm the health benefits and safety of such mycosterol rich food formulations. The significant change has been observed in the public awareness about the healthy consumption of food. The global market of functional food products is expanding over billions every year and consequently amplifying the emerging requirement of health claim-bearing mycosterol enriched food products.


1. Corrêa, R. C., Peralta, R. M., Bracht, A., & Ferreira, I. C. (2017). The emerging use of mycosterols in food industry along with the current trend of extended use of bioactive phytosterols. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 67, 19-35.

2. Das, M., & Gurusiddaiah, S. K. (2023). Ergosterol fraction from Agaricus bisporus modulates adipogenesis and skeletal glucose uptake in high fat diet induced obese C57BL/6 mice. Life Sciences, 315, 121337.

3. Tian, Y., Zeng, H., Xu, Z., Zheng, B., Lin, Y., Gan, C., & Lo, Y. M. (2012). Ultrasonic-assisted extraction and antioxidant activity of polysaccharides recovered from white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus). Carbohydrate Polymers, 88(2), 522-529.

4. Gil-Ramírez, A., Aldars-García, L., Palanisamy, M., Jiverdeanu, R. M., Ruiz-Rodríguez, A., Marín, F. R.,andSoler-Rivas, C. (2013). Sterol enriched fractions obtained from Agaricusbisporus fruiting bodies and by-products by compressed fluid technologies (PLE and SFE). Innovative food science and emerging technologies, 18, 101-107

About the Author:
Moumita Das Author


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