Health

New Study Highlights the Potential of Mycelium as a Nutritious Solution to World Hunger

A new study authored by leading food scientists, including Harold H. Schmitz, Chair of the Scientific Board of Meati Foods, explores the potential of mycelium, the roots of filamentous fungi, to improve human health, support a sustainable food system, and to reduce food insecurity, malnutrition, and world hunger.

According to the authors, mycelium is a cost-effective alternative to animal meat: it delivers meaty texture and neutral flavor while offering high-quality proteins, fibers, and essential micronutrients (iron, zinc, and vitamin B12), holding the potential to improve public health.  Additionally, its production is scalable, affordable, and fast.

They also highlight the potential of mycelium in addressing environmental concerns in food production since it is environmentally sustainable, with the additional surplus of helping reduce food waste through fermentationAccording to the research, mycelium can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of food production, water, and land use compared to animal-sourced foods. 

However, the paper states that the success of mycelium and other novel food sources in replacing animal proteins and combating world hunger depends on making them affordable and accessible worldwide, considering social inequality and dietary preferences.

MyBacon Skillet
© MyForest Foods

Health benefits of mycelium

To demonstrate the health benefits of mycoprotein, the research also unveils various studies showing that consuming this protein positively impacts immune response, cancer, and cirrhosis and influences a favorable food glycemic response. Moreover, the study shows that mycoprotein helped reduce glucose and insulin responses in trials, indicating a potential for managing blood sugar levels.

Other findings show that mycelium intake also suppresses appetite and may lower cholesterol levels. And because it is rich in beneficial fibers such as chitin and β-glucan, its consumption can improve gut health and reduce LDL cholesterol, says the report.

Additionally, the authors conclude that mycelium proteins offer sustained amino acid availability, potentially aiding muscle synthesis more effectively than animal proteins, adding that further research is needed in different dietary conditions.

meati-steak-new-president
©Meati Foods

Producing mycoprotein

The authors explain that mycelium fermentation for “mycofoods” employs techniques such as solid-state and submerged fermentation, each with unique benefits. Solid-state is cost-effective and used for products like tempeh. Meanwhile, submerged fermentation, beneficial for large-scale production such as Quorn’s, is key to creating an ingredient for alternatives to meat and fish.

The study also discusses a recent techno-economic analysis that suggests mycoprotein production could compete with or surpass animal proteins like beef cost-effectively. However, the authors highlight that investment in both methods is crucial to offer a solution to protein diversification.

The authors argue that mycoprotein offers more health and climate benefits, even more than plant proteins. If produced at scale, it could replace animal proteins with an optimal source of protein more quickly, helping combat malnutrition, world hunger, and climate change. 

Besides Quorn, many food companies are harnessing the potential of mycelium to develop alternatives to seafood, steaks, bacon, whole cuts, foie gras, and other plant-forward meat alternatives.

“Once achieved (scale), the mycelium will certainly be appealing as an environmentally friendly, nutrient-dense protein source that can aid in the reduction of global hunger,” reads the paper.

The report has been published as part of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry virtual special issue, The Future of Agriculture and Food: Sustainable Approaches to Achieve Zero Hunger.

Bookmark
ClosePlease login
See all bookmarks

Share