Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fats from Fungi: GLA and DHA

Fungi fascinate me as a food. To be honest I don't really like the taste. So when I cook then I try to hide the taste by cooking them in wine, or with bacon. However they interest me because they don't use the sunlight for energy, like other plants. They break down the wood/soil material and use this for energy, and the bits that are above the ground are these plants "fruits". I only figured this out this year, that the fungi that we see are not there to make nutrients but to sow seeds.

With this unusual metabolic method, one would expect some very unusual compounds in fungi. This is why so many of them are poisons and can kills with such a small amount. This is why I don't eat any of the multitude of fungi that appear at our place (except for Taranaki Gold which is very distinctive). But I would love it if different types of fungi were cultivated and sold locally (I often contemplate setting up a shed out the back to do this, but I will be pleasantly surprised if I do this in the next 10 years).

Came across an article that was looking at fats in fungi. I would mentally not connect fungi with fats. However there seems to be a wide variety of fats produced by fungi.

One type of fungi Mucor javanicus produces a high level of GLA (a good omega 6 fatty acid). This can produce up to 18% of total fats produced. Intriguingly enough and enzyme from Mucor javanicus is proposed to be used in NZ cheese production. I am unsure if the application was approved, and if it is used commercially.

Fish get their DHA /EPA from the organisms that they eat. Therefore it is no surprise that the Marine fungi Thraustochytrium aureum which was discovered in 1963, turns out that in optimal conditions it can produce 50% of its fats as DHA. There is considerable interest in this because, one assumes, that it would be easier to produce in tanks than fish. And that is would be easier to process to extract the oil. Will be interesting to see over the next few years if supplements from this source appear on the market.

Reference: Kendrick and Ratledge Microbial lipid technology: microbial formation of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Lipid Technology Vol 2 no 3 pg 62 1990.

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