AHCC supplement health benefit and side effects, risks, safety and review, effect on immunity and cancer research by Ray Sahelian, M.D. Honest information, 500 mg dosage per capsule or pill
Active Hexose-Correlated Compound - AHCC - is a mushroom extract supplement that has been tested for its potential role in the immune system, liver health, cancer treatment and as a biological response modifier. AHCC was developed in Japan in 1989, and most of the studies with this supplement have been conducted in Japan.
How is an AHCC supplement made?
AHCC is an extract of mycelium, obtained through the long-term cultivation of several types of basidiomycetes medicinal mushrooms including Shiitake. After undergoing enzymatic decomposition, concentration, and freeze-drying, AHCC is obtained from the cultured liquid. Active components include glucans and an oligosaccharide. This product is also a mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, lipids and minerals.
Studies in mice show AHCC supplement:
Enhances resistance to infection
Enhances natural killer cell activity
Protects the liver from injury induced by toxic or anti cancer agents.
AHCC may have potential as an immune enhancing agent in the therapy of opportunistic infections.
AHCC reduces Breast Cancer
metastasis in mice when combined with chemotherapy agents.
May even have antioxidant properties.
Could reduce side effects of chemotherapy drugs.
Supplementation with active hexose correlated compound increases the innate immune response of young mice to primary influenza infection.
J Nutr. 2006 Nov;136(11):2868-73. Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 19104,
The emergence of H5N1 avian influenza and the threat of new or adapted viruses in bioterrorism have created an urgent interest in identifying agents to enhance the immune response to primary virus infection. Active hexose correlated compound is a natural mushroom extract reported to increase natural killer (NK) cell activity, survival, and bacterial clearance in young mice. However, the effects of AHCC on the response to viral infections have not been studied. In this study, young C57BL/6 mice were supplemented with 1 gram AHCC / (kilogram body weight x day) for 1 wk prior to and throughout infection with influenza A (H1N1, PR8). Supplementation increased survival, decreased the severity of infection, and shortened recovery time following intranasal infection with flu, as determined by the recovery of body weight and epithelial integrity in the lungs. AHCC increased NK activity in lungs at d 1 and d 4 and in the spleen at day 2 postinfection. Supplementation increased the percentage and number of NK1.1+ cells in the lung and reduced the infiltration of lymphocytes and macrophages compared with controls. These data suggest that AHCC supplementation boosts natural killer activity, improves survival, and reduces the severity of influenza infection in young mice.
Studies in humans show AHCC supplement
Has protective effects on the liver in cases of liver injury, cirrhosis, cancer, or hepatitis.
AHCC and cancer -- one study shows AHCC improves the prognosis in patients with liver cancer however several more studies are needed before determining the role of this supplement as a cancer treatment in humans.
Can enhance certain aspects of the immune system.
Prognostic improvement of patients with advanced liver cancer after active hexose correlated compound treatment.
Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2006 Mar;24(1):33-45. Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Thammasat University Rangsit Campus, Patumthani, Thailand.
Most patients with liver cancer are diagnosed when they are not suitable for resection. Although some palliative approaches can be applied to these patients, the overall survival rate remains unsatisfactory. AHCC, a newly developed functional food, has been shown to act as a potent biological response modifier in in vitro experiments. Recently, this mushroom extract was found to improve the prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma patients following surgical treatment. We investigated whether AHCC could prolong survival and improve the prognosis of patients with advanced liver cancer. A prospective cohort study was performed with 44 patients with histologically confirmed liver cancer. All of the patients underwent supportive care. Of the 44 patients, 34 and 10 received AHCC and placebo orally, respectively. Patients in the AHCC treated-group had a significantly prolonged survival when compared to the control group. Quality of life in terms of mental stability, general physical health status, and ability to have normal activities were significantly improved after 3 months of AHCC treatment. Unlike the control patients, AHCC treated-patients with longer survival time had the tendency of better outcomes since the levels of AST and ALT had not increased rapidly from their baselines at follow-up. In addition, the levels of total IL-12 and neopterin were slightly increased in AHCC treated patients. Our study suggests that AHCC intake could prolong the survival and improve the prognosis of patients with advanced liver cancer and delay the gradual decline of their physiological status.
Effect on the immune system in healthy volunteers
Immunological effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) in healthy volunteers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(5): Terakawa N, Matsui Y, Satoi S, Yanagimoto H, Takahashi K, Yamamoto T, Yamao J, Takai S, Kwon AH, Kamiyama Y. Department of Surgery, Kansai Medical University, Osaka, Japan.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of active hexose correlated compound intake on immune responses by investigating the number and function of circulating dendritic cells in healthy volunteers. Twenty-one healthy volunteers were randomized to receive placebo or AHCC at 3.0 g/day for 4 weeks. The number of circulating cluster of differentiation (CD)11c(+) DCs (DC1) and CD11c(-) DCs (DC2) were measured. Allogeneic mixed-leukocyte reaction was performed. Natural killer (NK) cell activity and the proliferative response of T lymphocytes toward mitogen (phytohemagglutinin [PHA]) were measured. We also measured cytokine production stimulated by lipopolysaccharide [interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, interferon gamma-gamma, tumor necrosis factor-alpha). The AHCC group (n = 10) after AHCC intake had a significantly higher number of total dendritic cells compared to that at baseline and values from control subjects. The mixed-leukocyte reaction in the AHCC group was significantly increased compared to controls. No significant differences in PHA, NK cell activity, and cytokine production were found between groups.
Use with chemotherapy drugs
Evaluation of active hexose correlated compound hepatic metabolism and potential for drug interactions with chemotherapy agents.
J Soc Integr Oncol. 2008 Summer. Mach CM, Fugii H, Wakame K, Smith J. Division of Pharmacy, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77230, USA.
AHCC has demonstrated potential antitumor activity and immune modulator activity. However, there is no current information regarding its metabolism and the potential for drug-drug interactions in combination with chemotherapy. The objective of this study was to characterize AHCC hepatic metabolism, specifically involving the potential for drug interactions with selected chemotherapy agents. The CYP450 induction metabolism assays indicate that AHCC is an inducer of CYP450 2D6. AHCC does have the potential for drug-drug interactions involving CYP450 2D6, such as doxorubicin or ondansetron; however, the overall data suggest that AHCC would be safe to administer with most other chemotherapy agents that are not metabolized via the CYP450 2D6 pathway.
The effect of active hexose correlated compound in modulating cytosine arabinoside-induced hair loss, and 6-mercaptopurine- and methotrexate-induced liver injury in rodents.
Cancer Epidemiol. 2009 Oct; Sun B, Wakame K, Sato E, Nishioka H, Aruoma OI, Fujii H. Amino Up Chemical Co, Ltd, 363-32 Shin-ei, Sapporo, Japan.
Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) (a mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, lipids and minerals derived from cultured mycelia of a Basidiomycete mushroom, Lentinula edodes) was used to assess amelioration of alopecia (hair loss) caused by cytosine arabinoside and modulation of liver injury caused by single doses 6-mercaptopurine plus methotrexate. Co-administration of AHCC significantly reduced the side effects associated with arabinoside, 6-mercaptopurine and methotrexate. .
Many of the studies in humans have used dosages of AHCC supplement of about 3 grams a day. The ideal AHCC dosage for cancer prevention or treatment or other conditions for long term use is still being evaluated.
Side effects, risk, safety, adverse events, danger, caution
No major AHCC side effects have been reported in medical journals as of February 2010.
Summary and review, recommendations
More research with AHCC and cancer is needed before making any firm recommendations on effectiveness, dosage, frequency and length of use, interactions with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and the conditions for which this interesting compound can be useful. Thus far much of the AHCC and cancer research looks promising but few have been done in humans.
AHCC Research studies
Active hexose correlated compound enhances tumor surveillance through regulating both innate and adaptive immune responses.
Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2006 Oct;55(10):1258-66. Epub 2005 Dec 16. Gao Y, Zhang D, et al. Section of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, CAB Building, Room 517, 300 Cedar Street, 208031, New Haven, CT
AHCC has been studied for its role in immune functions. In this study, C57BL/6 mice were orally administered AHCC or water, followed by tumor cell inoculation. Compared to pure water-treated mice, the natural supplement treatment significantly delayed tumor development after inoculation of either melanoma cell line B16F0 or lymphoma cell line EL4. Treatment with AHCC enhanced both Ag-specific activation and proliferation of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells, increased the number of tumor Ag-specific CD8(+) T cells, and more importantly, increased the frequency of tumor Ag-specific IFN-gamma producing CD8(+) T cells. Interestingly, AHCC treatment also showed increased cell number of NK and gammadelta T cells, indicating the role of AHCC in activating these innate-like lymphocytes. In summary, our results demonstrate that AHCC can enhance tumor immune surveillance through regulating both innate and adaptive immune responses.
Active hexose correlated compound enhances tumor surveillance through regulating both innate and adaptive immune responses.
Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2005 Dec 16;:1-9
Section of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, CAB Building, New Haven, CT
In this study, C57BL/6 mice were orally administered AHCC or water, followed by tumor cell inoculation. We showed that compared to pure water-treated mice, AHCC treatment significantly delayed tumor development after inoculation of either melanoma cell line B16F0 or lymphoma cell line EL4. Treatment with AHCC enhanced both Ag-specific activation and proliferation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, increased the number of tumor Ag-specific CD8(+) T cells, and more importantly, increased the frequency of tumor Ag-specific IFN-gamma producing CD8(+) T cells. Interestingly, AHCC treatment also showed increased cell number of NK and gammadelta T cells, indicating the role of AHCC in activating these innate-like lymphocytes. In summary, our results demonstrate that AHCC can enhance tumor immune surveillance through regulating both innate and adaptive immune responses.
AHCC Enhances the Immune Function of Mice in the Hindlimb-Unloading Model of Space Flight Conditions.
Department of Microbiology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta
J Appl Physiol. 2004 Jun 11
Hindlimb-unloading is a ground-based model that simulates some of the aspects of space flight conditions including lack of load bearing on hindlimbs and a fluid shift to the head. It has been shown that treatment with Active Hexose Correlated Compound restores resistance to infection in mice maintained under hindlimb-unloading conditions. The present study was designed to clarify the mechanisms by which AHCC enhances resistance to infection in this model. We hypothesized that oral administration of AHCC will enhance the function of the immune system, which could lead to the increased resistance to infection observed in this model. AHCC or the excipient was orally administered to mice and the function of the immune system was assessed in spleen and peritoneal cells isolated from those groups. The results of the current study showed that, administration of AHCC for one week prior to and throughout the 2nd day of hindlimb-unloading period enhanced the function of the immune system assessed by spleen cell proliferation and cytokine production in spleens and nitric oxide and cytokine production in peritoneal cells. These findings suggest that Active Hexose Correlated Compound can be used as a potent immunoenhancer especially in cases where the immune system is suppressed by any condition including diseases such as HIV infection and cancer.
Amelioration by active hexose correlated compound of endocrine disturbances induced by oxidative stress in the rat.
Endocr Regul. 2004 Mar;38(1):7-13.
AHCC, an extract derived from fungi of Basidiomycetes family, has been found to be a potent antioxidant. Since the secretion of some hormones can be affected by reactive oxygen species, the objective of this study was to examine how ferric nitrilotriacetate (FeNTA), which generates hydroxyl radicals in vivo, modulates the hormone secretion and the effects of AHCC. FeNTA induces various endocrine disorders and AHCC ameliorates these effects by acting as an antioxidant.
Suppressive effects of Active Hexose Correlated Compound on the increased activity of hepatic and renal ornithine decarboxylase induced by oxidative stress.
Life Sci. 2003 Dec 19;74(5):593-602.
Active Hexose Correlated Compound AHCC, an extract derived from fungi of Basidiomycetes family has been shown to act as a biological response modifier in various disorders. In our present study, ferric nitrilotriacetate (Fe-NTA), which generates hydroxyl radicals in vivo, was given intraperitoneally to rats and AHCC was tested for its ability to suppress oxidative stress and the activity of ornithine decarboxylase in the liver and kidney. These results suggest AHCC acts as a potent antioxidant and protects against disorders induced by oxidative stresses.
Prophylactic efficacy of a basidiomycetes preparation AHCC against lethal Candida albicans infection in experimental granulocytopenic mice.
Nippon Ishinkin Gakkai Zasshi. 2003;44(2):127-31.
The prophylactic effects of AHCC against lethal Candida albicans infection were investigated in non treated or immunosuppressed mice. In leukopenic mice and nontreated mice, the intraperitoneal administration of AHCC prior to Candida albicans infection clearly prolonged the survival periods of the infected mice. In doxorubicin-treated mice, AHCC was less but significantly effective. On the other hand, in prednisolone-treated mice, AHCC was not effective. Oral administration of AHCC also protected the 5-FU-treated mice from lethal Candida infection, as indicated by prolongation of the survival periods and inhibition of Candida growth in the kidneys of these mice and by the increase in a number of neutrophils in their peripheral blood. These results suggested that AHCC may display a protective role against opportunistic fungal infection in leukopenic hosts.
Improved prognosis of postoperative hepatocellular carcinoma patients when treated with functional foods: a prospective cohort study.
Matsui Y. J Hepatol 2002 Jul;37(1):78-86.
Active hexose correlated compound is a newly developed functional food. In vitro experiments have shown that it enhances natural killer cell activity, and may be considered a potent biological response modifier in the treatment of cancer patients. However, the effects of AHCC in a clinical setting have not been reported. We seek to determine whether AHCC can improve the prognosis of liver cancer patients following surgical treatment. A prospective cohort study was performed. A total of 269 consecutive patients with histologically confirmed hepaotcellular carcinoma were studied. All of the patients underwent resection of a liver tumor. Time to treatment failure (disease recurrence or death) and ten parameters related to liver function after surgery were examined. Of the 269 patients, 113 received AHCC orally after undergoing curative surgery. The AHCC group had a significantly longer no recurrence period and an increased overall survival rate when compared to the control group. This study suggests that Active Hexose Correlated Compound intake can improve the prognosis of postoperative liver cancer patients.
Suppressive effect of active hexose correlated compound on thymic apoptosis induced by dexamethasone in the rat.
Endocr Regul 2000 Dec;34(4):181-8.
Mushroom extracts are known to have immune modulating and antitumor effects in humans as well as in animals. In the present study AHCC, an extract obtained from several kinds of basidiomycetes was examined for its suppressive effect on thymocyte apoptosis induced by dexamethasone. Our results suggest that AHCC exhibits immune system modulating effects at least partially by regulating thymic apoptosis.
Prophylactic efficacy of a basidiomycetes preparation AHCC against lethal opportunistic infections in mice.
Yakugaku Zasshi 2000 Aug;120(8):715-9.
The prophylactic effects of AHCC against experimental opportunistic infections were investigated in leukopenic mice. In cyclophosphamide-induced leukopenic mice, oral or intraperitoneal administration of the AHCC at doses of 1000 or 50 mg/kg/day, respectively, for 4 consecutive days prior to Candida albicans infection significantly prolonged the survival periods of the infected mice, and decreased the viable counts of C. albicans cells recovered from their kidneys. Similarly, the oral treatment with AHCC protected mice from lethal infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa and intraperitoneal one also protected mice from infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. These results suggest a potential usefulness of the AHCC as a prophylactic agent for the management of patients with opportunistic infections.
Combination therapy of active hexose correlated compound plus UFT significantly reduces the metastasis of rat mammary adenocarcinoma.
Anticancer Drugs. 1998 Apr;9(4):343-50.
Synergistic effects of AHCC mushroom extract on the treatment with UFT against mammary adenocarcinoma, SST-2 cells, in congenitally T cell-depressed spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) were observed. AHCC plus UFT had slight but significant effects on the growth of primary tumors. Pulmonary metastases were not inhibited by the treatment with AHCC plus UFT, whereas metastases to axillary lymph nodes (LN) were obviously inhibited. Combination of AHCC plus UFT showed similar synergistic anti-metastatic effects in SHR rats with accelerated pulmonary metastases following the surgical removal of the primary tumors. In vitro studies demonstrated that AHCC plus UFT enhanced the NK cell activity in tumor-bearing rats, whereas UFT alone depressed the NK cell activity. AHCC plus UFT also enhanced the NO production and cytotoxicity of peritoneal macrophages. In addition, AHCC restored the suppressed mRNA expression of interleukin-1alpha and tumor necrosis factor-alpha induced by the chemotherapy. Taken together, the combination of AHCC plus UFT brought about good therapeutic effects not only on primary tumor growth but also on reducing metastasis and these effects were mediated by host immunity which was restored or activated by AHCC. This mushroom extract may be a good candidate for a biological response modifier.
Study Concludes AHCC Enhances Resistance To Infection
Results of a National Space Biomedical Research Institute study conducted at Morehouse School of Medicine suggest that oral administration of Active Hexose Correlated Compound AHCC can increase resistance to infection. The purpose of this study was to determine if AHCC could ameliorate or prevent the deleterious effects of hindlimb-unloading on resistance to infection and immune response. Results of this study suggest that oral administration of AHCC improves the overall condition of the host resulting in increased resistance to infection. Hindlimb-unloading of rodents is a ground-based model for some of the effects of space flight on the immune system. Maintenance of rodents in this model induces muscle and bone loss and a fluid shift to the head, which are similar to changes induced by space flight. Previous studies conducted in the Morehouse laboratory have shown that hindlimb-unloading results in altered immune responses and resistance to infection with pathogens. In this present study, AHCC was orally administered to mice to determine if the treatment could decrease immunosuppression and mortality of mice maintained in the hindlimb-unloaded model infected with the bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae, a common bacteria that effects people with weakened immune systems. The results showed that administration of AHCC by gavage for one week (1g/kg body weight) prior to suspension and throughout the ten-day suspension period yielded significant beneficial effects for the hindlimb-unloaded group including: 1) decreased mortality 2) increased time to death and 3) increased ability to clear bacteria. The results suggest that AHCC can decrease the deleterious effects of the hindlimb-unloading model on immunity and resistance to infection. The samples of this product used in this study were provided by Quality of Life Labs, Purchase, New York. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) partially supported this work. The study on AHCC titled “Active Hexose Correlated Compound Enhances Resistance to Klebsiella pneumoniae: Infection in Mice in the Hindlimb-Unloading Model of Space Flight Conditions,” was published in the April 11, 2003, issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.
AHCC supplement pill emails
Q. I've been taking AHCC pills for approximately 1 month now. In addition, I'm on the chemo drug Xeloda and the drip Avastin. Have developed several fatty tissue lumps that my doctor assures me is not cancer. Could it be a reaction to the this mushroom product? Do you know of any conflicts with this supplement while undergoing chemo?
A. We have not had feedback thus far that AHCC is involved in fatty acid formation, then again there is still a lot to be learned about natural supplements and their full positive and negative effects. There are too many drug combinations and interactions and it is very difficult to know what interactions AHCC may have with chemotherapy drugs, it would take many studies for prolonged periods, and we have not come across such research.
Q. I have prostate cancer, can I use AHCC supplement?
A. We have not seen research studies with prostate cancer and AHCC so we don't know.
Q. What is the right dosage of AHCC for lung infections?
A. Hardly any research is available with AHCC and infection treatment, so we really don't know whether this mushroom extract would be effective.
Q. I have seen various forms of this supplement, Immpower AHCC and Kinoko AHCC. Which form is best?
A. There are several AHCC products available, including ImmPower made by American Biosciences. According to the manufacturer, ImmPower is Active Hexose Correlated Compound ( AHCC ), developed by combining several species of mushrooms used in traditional Japanese healing to make one, extremely powerful, hybridized mushroom. This hybridized mushroom is grown in a liquid medium containing rice bran and enzymatically modified to be readily absorbable. Kinoko AHCC is made by Quality of Life Labs. Several other companies private label AHCC including Source Naturals and NOW Foods.
Q. What is AHCC exactly?
A. AHCC is a mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, lipids and minerals derived from cocultured mycelia of several species of Basidiomycete mushrooms.
Q. I have looked on your site for information about AHCC and found the interesting article. However, I am a little puzzled by one of the questions at the end of the article which I quote here Q. "I have seen various forms, Immpower AHCC and Kinoko AHCC. Which form of AHCC is best? A. There are several AHCC products available, including ImmPower made by American Biosciences. According to the manufacturer, ImmPower is Active Hexose Correlated Compound, developed by combining several species of mushrooms used in traditional Japanese healing to make one, extremely powerful, hybridized mushroom. This hybridized mushroom is grown in a liquid medium containing rice bran and enzymatically modified to be readily absorbable. Kinoko AHCC is made by Quality of Life Labs. Several other companies private label AHCC including Source Naturals and NOW Foods." Having read the 'Answer' , I still cannot see which one is advised as being the best. Which form of AHCC is best. I look forward to your reply.
A. Since there have not been any studies comparing the various AHCC products from these different companies, I have no basis on which to base an educated opinion. For the time being my impression is that most, or all, of these companies have a good product.
First let me thank you for a wonderful, information filled website. Second, in your question section under AHCC someone asks about the different kinds of AHCC on the market. You responded that you just did not have the information available to differentiate the products. Just to let you know, all AHCC products use the same raw material, the only things that may differ are amounts and what they may or may not combine it with. AHCC is a trademarked product and everyone who sells it buys the same raw material. I hope this helps. Also, just so you know, I have a PhD but have no affiliation with any of the companies selling AHCC.
Thanks for your input and clarifying this issue. Companies buy AHCC from the same source but one cannot know if the actual bottle they sell contains the exact amount of AHCC claimed on the supplement fact panel or whether they combine it with other ingredients. At this time I have no reason to suspect, though, that the different companies selling their own AHCC bottles would not be honest.
I just love your website because it's full of honest information. I have a question for the AHCC supplement. Is it okay for a person with low grade B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Sjogren's syndrome to take the AHCC supplement? This person also has low WBC count and she is taking 5 MG of Prednisone every day. I also want to mention that this individual underwent the Rituxan treatment once a week for 4 weeks but her WBC count is still low (2.0).
AHCC supplements influence the immune system and it is difficult to predict how any one individual's immune system will respond to AHCC use, particularly if prednisone, an immune system suppressant, is used.
I’ve been looking at your website for details of. I have been taking Kinoko gold AHCC for two months on a minimum dose, because I wanted to build up my immune system mainly, after getting swine flu last year. It appears to have given me more energy and my arthritic neck pain disappeared, although I can’t be sure it was that. I am a bit worried about your articles on shiitake mushroom possibly causing allergies if used long term. Can you advise if its ok to take AHCC long term.
I often recommend taking breaks from the use of most supplements and I think it would be a good idea to take a break from this mushroom extract. As to the frequency or length of the breaks, that is an individual matter and it is up to the patient and their doctor to decide.