Currently many people are worried due to the Coronavirus and are looking for ways to keep their immune system healthy. Research shows that AHCC, Active Hexose Correlated Compound, gives your immune system a healthy boost. It is proven to have positive effects in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hepatitis. It also has an anti-tumor effect and reduces the side effects of chemotherapy. In Japan, AHCC is used in more than 700 hospitals to treat cancer, hepatitis and other chronic diseases. It is also a common immune boosting supplement that people take on a daily basis to boost their immune system and keep a healthy immune system.
How to keep your immune system healthy with AHCC
AHCC is a fermented extract from the fungal mycelium of a hybrid of different types of mushrooms that are used in traditional Japanese medicine. It differs from other mushroom-based supplements by its low molecular weight (5,000 daltons), which is obtained by an enzymatic process that facilitates its absorption by the oral route.
The active ingredients of the AHCC are ingredients that can be found in numerous types of mushrooms and some are derivatives of alpha and beta glucan, polysaccharides, which are known for their positive effects on the immune system.
They have a modulating effect on the immune system, they increase the concentration of T and B lymphocytes, stimulate the activity of the macrophages and thus strengthen the body’s defenses against the action of viruses, bacteria, parasites or neoplastic cells.
The Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) has been part of more than 200 clinical trials, mainly conducted in Japan. Today, research is ongoing in more than 150 research centers and university hospitals in Japan and the United States. Since 1994, more than 300 doctors and researchers have gathered in Sapporo, Japan, at the AHCC’s Symposium on Association for Research.
The guardians of the immune system
The natural killer cells (NK) discovered in the 1980s are a type of white blood cell; they are considered “guard posts” cells of the immune system. Like the guards of a fort, they are the first to face the invasion of viruses, bacteria, or sudden malignancies. They have an innate or natural ability to distinguish between the “good” and the “bad” and can kill numerous targets at the same time or in quick succession. If they function fully, the pathogenic organisms are nipped in the bud before they take root; the rest of the immune system tends to regulate itself lower, recover, and be better prepared to respond when asked again.
In healthy individuals, the NK cells systematically kill the cancer if the tumors are microscopic and before they can be detected.
The measure of functioning as a killer of cancer of the NK cells is considered to be one of the main indicators of the clinical prognosis. Research shows that this function is often very weak in people with a family history of cancer, that it decreases with age, which explains the increase in cancer incidence with aging. It is also weakened by cancer ablation, radiation, or chemotherapy, which may explain why cancer metastases spread even more aggressively after these treatments.
Stimulating the functioning of NK cells and supporting the first line of defense of the immune system are part of the most promising options for the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Stimulate NK cell activity
Since 1986, 29 scientific studies regarding the effects of AHCC on the cancer-killing activity of NK cells have been published.
A study examined the effects of AHCC on the activity of NK cells in three patients who had various types of advanced cancer (multiple myeloma, rhabdomyosarcoma, or breast cancer). They received 3 to 6 g AHCC daily for a period of two weeks before the cytotoxicity of their NK cells was measured.
In the patient suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma, treatment with the AHCC resulted in a significant increase in the activity of the NK cells as an effector (from 91 to 135%) and a multiplication of the population of the NK cells by two. The increase in these parameters was observed in the last period of treatment and continued at a high level over a week to decrease two weeks after the end of treatment. The anti-cancer activity of the NK cells was similarly increased in the case of multiple myeloma (87%) and breast cancer (93%). In addition, a multiplication of the population of NK cells by two or three was observed in these two patients.
The researchers concluded that the AHCC was a promising immunomodulator and that its stimulating effect on the cytotoxicity of NK cells could explain one of the mechanisms by which it exerts its anti-cancer effects (1 ).
17 cancer patients with various advanced malignancies [carcinoma of the ovaries (3), multiple myeloma (2), stomach (2), breast (5), lungs (2), rhabdomyosarcoma (1) and prostate (2)], were included in a defined study to investigate the immunomodulating function of AHCC.
The patients received 3 g of AHCC daily over a period of 2 to 6 months. The results of the study of the activity of the NK cells showed an increase from the second week of treatment. This activity increased later, up to 6 months after treatment. AHCC appears to activate the NK cells by increasing their ability to bind to the target group of the tumor cells (multiplied by two) and also by increasing the granularity of the NK cells. The researchers’ conclusion was that the AHCC is an extremely potent immunomodulator that can be useful in cancer immunotherapy 2 .
Promotes the production of specific cytokines
The cytokines are chemical messengers of the immune system. Scientific research has shown that the AHCC increases the production of some of them:
- interferon, which directly inhibits replication of viruses and other parasites and at the same time increases the activity of the NK cells;
- tumor necrosis factor (TGF), a group of proteins that promote the destruction of cancer cells by causing apoptosis (programmed cell death);
- the interleukins IL-2 and IL-12, which weaken the production of the tumor growth factor, stimulate an even higher activity of the NK cells and accelerate the differentiation and proliferation of T cells.
Strengthens the immune system
Another study included three prostate cancer patients; three others, one ovarian cancer; two with multiple myeloma and three with breast cancer. Their associated tumor antigen was measured before, during, and after you took AHCC. The results have shown:
- a significant decrease in PSA in all prostate cancer patients;
- the CA 15 values dropped significantly in 2 out of 3 patients who had ovarian cancer;
- BJP decreased significantly in one of the two patients with multiple myelon and was slightly reduced in the other;
- In 9 of the 11 subjects, the AHCC increased the activity of the NK cells as well as that of the T and B cells in a very significant way. In other words, the reduction in the markers of the tumor was directly related to the increase in the strength of their immune system and justifies the fact that a resistant immune system can help fight cancer (3) .
Combats the side effects of anti-cancer treatments
Several animal studies have shown that the AHCC could alleviate certain side effects from different anti-cancer treatments.
Working with mice treated with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), cyclophosphamide, or both daily, shows that AHCC significantly restores weight, red blood cells, and bone marrow when administered simultaneously. In addition, concomitant administration of AHCC in mice treated with mercaptopurine (6-MP) and methotrexate (MTX) improves reductions in weight, serum albumin and liver function (4). Hair loss or severe alopecia caused by the ARA-C cytosine arabinoside decreased slightly when the AHCC was administered concurrently with the anti-cancer agent (5) .
Damage to liver function is responsible for numerous side effects of chemotherapy. A study in mice that used carbon tetrachloride as a drug model that induced liver lesion has shown that treatment with the AHCC prevents liver function loss, stimulates metabolism, and the accumulation of carcinogenic components and the development of hormonal imbalances that are often associated with hepatic insufficiency (6) .
Hair loss is a common, even temporary, and extremely stressful consequence of cancer treatments. The protective effect exerted by the AHCC in this area was confirmed by another study in which 5 out of 7 rats were treated with ARA-C chemotherapy and showed severe alopecia while the other two have only moderate alopecia. The animals that were given AHCC for chemotherapy at the same time were protected. Microscopic analysis showed severe loss of follicles in the control animals, whereas this loss was moderate in those who received the AHCC.
Strengthens the effectiveness of chemotherapy
The AHCC’s ability to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy has been demonstrated in rats implanted with a cell category of spontaneous breast adenocarcinoma. Three groups of animals were observed over a period of 38 days. One served as a control, the other received the UFT, an oral form of fluorouracil, a chemotherapy drug, and the third was treated with the UFT associated with AHCC.
The tumor growth was greatest in the control group. There was a slight but significant growth retardation of the tumor in the group that took the AHCC compared to the group that only took the UFT. The greatest difference was observed in the growth of the distant metastars, which was inhibited by the treatment that associated the AHCC and the UFT and stimulated by the UFT alone. An explanation of this result could be the fact that the AHCC prevents the weakening of the immune function caused by chemotherapy (7) .
Prevents the recurrence of liver cancer
A study was defined to evaluate the preventive effect of AHCC on recurrence of carcinoma of the liver cells in patients who have had surgical treatment. It included 121 patients with histologically diagnosed hepatocellular carcinoma. 38 of them received 3 to 6 g AHCC daily immediately after surgery (group A) and 18 started treatment after re-emerging carcinomas were examined (group B). The other 65 formed the control group (group C). The longest observation periods for each of these groups were 39, 65 and 56 months. There was no clear difference between the three groups, particularly with regard to the distribution of age, gender, clinical stage, infection by the hepatitis B or C virus or the volume of liver resection. In group A, survivors without disease were significantly more numerous than in group C. One year after the operation, the serum values of the tumor markers in group A were significantly lower than in groups B and C.
This retrospective study suggests that taking AHCC has a preventive effect in patients who have had hepatocellular carcinoma. Other studies are needed to elucidate its intervention mechanism (8).
These results were confirmed by another study conducted between February 1992 and December 2001 in 269 patients diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, all of which had their tumor ablated. 113 patients received the AHCC after their surgery. The results showed an increase in time without tumor recurrence and a global increase in survival compared to the control group. This study shows that the AHCC can improve postoperative prognosis in patients with liver cancer (9) .
AHCC and diabetes
Research has shown that the AHCC has liver-protecting and detoxifying effects, which it exerts through the induction of liver enzymes and thanks to an antioxidant effect.
A study was defined to evaluate the preventive effect of AHCC in rats on the onset of streptozotocin (STZ) induced diabetes. Diabetes induced by the STZ can be considered an experimental model of type I diabetes. This study looked at the preventive effect of AHCC on the disorder of the Langerhans Islands, which are responsible for the secretion of insulin. The results of this study show that the AHCC can prevent the onset of STZ-induced diabetes by preventing the degeneration of the Langerhans Islands and by reducing the oxidative damage to the cells of different organs (10) .
Stress and chronic fatigue
The link between stress and chronic fatigue comes from the interaction of the immune system with the nervous and endocrine systems. The brain, when faced with emotional or physical stress, produces a neurotransmitter that will help initiate the “fight or flight” response. It directly reduces the functioning of NK cells and other aspects of cell immunity related to innate immunity (11) .
Numerous methods for reducing stress, such as regular physical activity, music, massages or simply smiling, can increase the activity of the NK cells. And numerous strategies to stimulate NK cells can reduce the effects of stress.
For example, research on models with stress that have been physically or chemically induced shows that the AHCC reduces the production of glucocorticoids, which is generally increased by the stress, and the increase in blood sugar levels, which is caused by the stress-induced secretions of epinephrine (12). Physicians and psychologists who treat patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome have reported improvements in mood, energy, and pain with the use of AHCC that are related to the results achieved with the model.
No matter whether you have a weakened immune system or not – if you want to make your immunesystem stronger or keep it at a constant high level during the current Coronavirus crisis, definitely check out AHCC.
1. Ghoneum Mamdooh et al., Enhancement of NK cell activity in cancer patients by AHCC, Adjuvant nutrition in cancer treatment symposium, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Nov 6-7, 1992.
2. Ghoneum Mamdooh, NK-immunomodulation by AHCC in 17 cancer patients, 2nd Meeting of the Society for natural immunity, Taormina, Italy, May 1994.
3. Ghoneum M. et al., Immunomodulatory and anticancer effects of AHCC, Int. J. Immunotherapy, 1995, XI (1) 23-28.
4. Sun B. et al., Reduction of side effects of anticancer drugs by AHCC, 90th Proceedings of the American association for cancer research, 1999.
5. Mukoda T. et al., AHCC protects against cytosine arabinoside induced alopecia in the newborn rat animal model, 57th annual meeting of the Japanese cancer association, 1998.
6. Sun et al., Protective effects of AHCC on carbon tetrachloride induced liver injury in mice, Natural medicines 51(4), 310-315 (1997) B.
7. Matsushita et al., Combination therapy of AHCC plus UFT significantly reduces the metastasis of rat mammary carcinoma, Anti-Cancer Drugs, 1998, 9, 343-350 K.
8. Kamiyama et al., Improving effect of AHCC on the prognosis of postoperative hepatocellular carcinoma patients, 34th Congress of European society for surgical research, Bern, Switzerland, 1999.
9. Matsui Y. et al., Improved prognosis of postoperative hepatocellular carcinoma patients when treated with functional foods: a prospective cohort study.
10. Wakame K. Protective effets of AHCC on the onset diabete induced by streptozotocin in rat. Biomedical research 20 (3) 145-152, 1999.
11. Glaser et al., Stress-associated immune modulation: relevance to viral infection and chronic fatigue syndrome, Am. J. Med., 1998, Sept 28, 105 (3A): 35S-42S.
12. Wang S. et al., AHCC on immobilization stress in rat: beneficial effects of Active Hexose Correlated Compound, Dokkyo Journal of Medical Sciences, 2001, p. 559 28(1): 559-565.