Getting back to our PA roots: Mushrooms, their genes and our health

Penn State researchers are exploring the health implications of mushrooms -- find out more at this month's Science on Tap event on May 21. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Did you know that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service, nearly two-thirds of white button mushrooms consumed in the United States come from Pennsylvania?

At this month’s Science on Tap event, Penn State researchers Margherita Cantorna and David Geiser will discuss their research on mushrooms and health with the public. The event will be held at 7 p.m. on May 21 at Federal Tap House in downtown State College.

Cantorna is a distinguished professor of molecular immunology and nutrition and is the director of the Center for Molecular Immunology and Infectious Disease at Penn State. She has expertise in immune-mediated diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. She studies the effects of edible mushrooms on the gut.  

“Edible white button mushrooms have health benefits, including protecting the gut from injury. Eating one serving a day of white button mushrooms — 1 cup — has very few calories — 15 — and affects the kinds of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract,” Cantorna explained. “The healthy bacteria that expand in the gut following the consumption of mushrooms can help with weight maintenance and glucose control.”

She added that these findings were made in mice after two to seven weeks of daily feeding.

Geiser is a professor of mycology, which is the scientific study of fungi, and is the director of the Fusarium Research Center at Penn State. His research focuses on the molecular evolutionary genetics of pathogenic and toxigenic fungi and his lab seeks to classify and understand the biology of different species of fungi.

The monthly Science on Tap series is designed to allow informal discussions between leading Penn State researchers and members of the public. Science on Tap is presented by the Science Policy Society, a graduate student-run organization that aims to teach researchers about the connection between their research and public policy.

For more information, visit the Science Policy Society’s website.

Last Updated June 21, 2019