August 27/Biotech Week -- Preliminary research, led by Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of John Hopkins Weight Management Center, suggests increasing intake of low-energy density foods, specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, is a strategy for preventing or treating obesity. This is good news for the more than one-third of U.S. adults age 20 and older who are obese, according to the Center for Disease Control. Obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

In the study led by Cheskin and funded by the Mushroom Council, study participants were randomly chosen to receive either beef or mushroom lunch entrees over four days -- lasagna, napoleon, sloppy Joe and chili. Subjects then switched entrees to consume the other ingredient (mushroom or beef) the following week.

Energy (calorie) intakes were significantly higher during meat meals than mushroom meals, a difference that averaged 420 more calories and 30g more fat per day over the four-day test period. Subjects' ratings for palatability (meal appeal), appetite, satiation (after meal fullness) and satiety (general fullness) did not differ between groups.

"The most intriguing finding was that subjects seemed to accept mushrooms as a palatable and suitable culinary substitute for meat," said Cheskin. "They didn't compensate for the lower calorie mushroom meal by eating more food later in the day."

The preliminary findings of Cheskin's team follow findings from other initial data that suggested if men substituted a 4oz Portabella mushroom for a 4oz grilled hamburger every time they ate a grilled hamburger over the course of a year, and did not change anything else, they could save more than 18,000 calories and nearly 3,000g of fat. That is the equivalent of 5.3 pounds or 30 sticks of butter. More research is needed to further understand mushrooms' role in weight management as a low-energy density food.

More Health Benefits of Mushrooms
In addition, mushrooms may be nature's hidden treasure for vitamin D, a nutrient many Americans do not get enough of for the required daily intake. Mushrooms are the only fresh vegetable or fruit with 4% of the daily value of Vitamin D per serving4 and preliminary research suggests that a standard serving of mushrooms can provide up to 100% of the daily value of vitamin D after just five minutes of contact with sunlight.

A serving of four-five white button mushrooms has 20 calories and no fat, saturated fat or cholesterol but is nutrient-rich. In fact, mushrooms are also the leading source of the antioxidant selenium in the fruit and vegetable category and a good source of the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which help break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

From the September 2, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash