The San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council has been swamped with medical research that supports the health benefits of mushrooms.

In December, the Institute of Medicine released the results of its 24-month review on dietary reference intakes for vitamin D and calcium that validated the importance of vitamin D as an essential nutrient for promoting bone health, the council reported.

“Mushrooms are unique for being the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle,” the council said.

The council’s third annual survey of Today’s Dietitian magazine subscribers, which are largely registered dietitians, also showed:

  • 8% more dietitians in 2010 (53.5%) than in 2009 (45.8%) reported recommending mushrooms to their clients;
  • 76.4% recognized mushrooms as an “important,” “somewhat important” or “very important” contributor to a healthy diet, compared to 75.7% in 2009;
  • The number of respondents reporting that they recommend mushrooms as a food source of vitamin D has increased by .5% — from 14.9% in 2009 to 15.4% in 2010; and
  • More than 93% of respondents recognized that mushrooms are low in calories, nutritious and part of a healthy diet.

The council invited four top researchers to the annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, Pa., in September for National Mushroom Month.

Shiuan Chen from the City of Hope cancer research center and hospital in Duarte, Calif., presented his research on mushrooms and breast cancer.

Michael Holick, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University Medical Center, and Mona Calvo, nutritional scientist at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, shared research on vitamin D.

Calvo discussed how her team was one of the first to propose exposing cultivated mushrooms to ultraviolet light after harvesting in order to increase their vitamin D2 content.

Lawrence Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, presented his research on using mushrooms as an effective substitute for meats.

The council touts mushrooms as being low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, very low in sodium and good sources of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals.