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Agaricus Big Unfounded Boom

7, 07. 2006

   "Even terminal cancer was gone by use of agaricus." This is a typical phrase started appearing some three years ago in advertisements in Japan. A boom came and cancer patients and consumers who had anxiety abut their health started jumping on it by paying on some occasions more than 100,000 yen for one-month dose of high-priced products. Its market in Japan expanded to more than 30 billion yen. It can be said, however, that it has none what so ever of scientific proof for the effectiveness of agaricus.

The Complementary and Alternative Medicine  Guidebook for Cancer published by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.  Self-responsibility and self-judgement are important in use of agaricus.
The Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guidebook for Cancer published by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Self-responsibility and self-judgement are important in use of agaricus.

   For cancer patients who are thinking of trying the so-called "complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)," a research group of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare issued in April this year a "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guidebook for Cancer." The booklet was intended to verify the medical effect of agaricus and other CAM. Public organizations until that time had conducted little research work to verify the effectiveness and side effects of health food for cancer from the viewpoint of western medicine.

Little Report to Prove Treatment Effectiveness in Past

   According to Dr. Yoshimitsu Sumiyoshi, ward director at Shikoku Cancer Center who took part in the issuing of the guidebook, 40% of cancer patients are taking some kind or other of CAM. Ninety percent are relying on health food. Apparently to grab at a straw, the percentage was higher among the patients who were denied the hope of being cured by surgery, radiation treatment, anticancer drugs or any other type of treatment by the western medicine.

   It is very difficult, however, to determine whether the health food is effective or not. Supposing cancer patients who took health food were cured, what caused the cure could have been the application of western medicine or possibly by natural cause. In some cases the relationship between the physicians and patients worsened because the doctors could not give satisfactory answers when they were asked by their patients about the effectiveness of health food. It is against this background that a guidebook that could stand in a neutral position was called for. The guidebook concluded that there were few reports that would prove the contraction of cancer, life prolongation of the patients or other effectiveness that many patients might expect.

   Setting aside the question of the "effectiveness," even the possibility of "suspicion" has come to the surface.
   Such newspapers as the Yomiuri Shimbun and Kobe Shimbun carried stories on April 11, 2004 that a patient died from fulminant hepatitis three week after taking doses of agaricus. The patient was a man in his 60's who was released from a hospital after receiving a surgical operation to remove lung cancer. The man was not susceptible to allergic reaction, and he was found to be negative in hepatitis virus test. Thus the doctor at the hospital concluded that "acute hepatitis the patient developed by the use of agaricus is the most strongly suspected" cause of his death.

Boom of Agaricus Happened Only in Japan

   The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare received a report about the incident reported by the newspapers, but it decided not to make the report public because the "causal relationship can not be established." On March 20 this year, Kirin-Wellfoods Co., Ltd. suddenly stopped selling of its agaricus products. The sales were expanding to 250 million yen per year, but the products were withdrawn from the market because the company was told by the ministry that agaricus "had the carcinogenic promotion effects by mixing with other substance." The company became unable to continue selling the products.

   The company, however, had its say:

"The cause for the 'promotion' was unclear. We were told carcinogenic promotion effect was detected when rats were fed with five to ten times the ordinary amount of dose. They did not contain carcinogenic agents. Besides, overeating is not good no matter what the food might be," commented the person in charge of public relations of the company.

   Then, how has it come that agaricus has enjoyed so much support so far? Agaricus has been said to have nutritious components that are good for health. Being full of minerals, amino acids, nucleic acids and, most of all, βglucan-D, agaricus was also said to have the effectiveness of strengthening the self-healing power. So far so good, but it has never scientifically proved that agaricus is good for cancer. Yet, it was widely publicized by mass media, and books were published one after another praising its effectiveness. The boom of agaricus was something that happened only in Japan.

"Try Low-Priced Products"

   An official with a major pharmaceutical company that makes agaricus products whispered:

"Its effectiveness much lower than medical products. The problem arose because people thought agaricus was a medicine."

   Toshinori Nishimoto, editor of "Men-eki-shinko ha Abunai (Faith in Immunity is Dangerous)" and President of Nan Nan Sha, which published the book, said:

"It's foolish to spend money in something that doesn't show any sign of effectiveness. Except one point..."

   The "point" he referred to has something to do with mentality. By eating agaricus, the patient gets the feeling of the effectiveness. He or she can mentally calm down. By this, as it is said "Illness originates in the mind," the immune strength of the patient sometimes increases.

"If someone is seeking self-satisfaction, it is recommended that he or she give a try with low-priced products."

   Dr. Sumiyoshi said in conclusion:

"The guidebook was not meant to stop the use of CAM. I think the patients had better to decide to use CAM or not by their own judgement and responsibility after reading the guidebook."

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