Oyster Mushrooms

So I’ve been reading a book by Paul Stamets who has given one of the best TED talks I’ve ever seen, and I watched a lot of them. The book is fantasy meets scifi meets reality; I’m really enjoying it. I’m currently reading one of the chapters covering medicinal uses of mushrooms and am really amazed. One small study of 30 people found that oyster mushrooms could reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol by 30%. There are 37 results for ‘pleurotus ostreatus cholesterol’ on pubmed (sorry they don’t allow linking to searches). Many are on animals like rats and rabbits which seem to support the study sited by the book. It seems to be a fairly well researched phenomenon.

This begs the question: Is there a reason why doctors do not prescribe oyster mushrooms? Is there a reason why they don’t at least suggest them? You can even find them freeze-dried, powered and capsulized so you can get the placebo effect of eating pills if thats what you need. All of the information I was able to dig up as a layman was supportive of the idea that they helped lower LDL cholesterol.

So I talked to a friend of mine Elizabeth who knows a bit more about the medical industry than I do (she’s recieved grant money to do medical imaging research on mice). Her basic response was that no pharmeseutical corperation is going to fund this kind of research. Mostly since they couldn’t patent a mushroom as common as the oyster which doesn’t even need extracting or processing to become medically useful. I was hoping for a less synical response, but alas, it was the best one I could find. Anyone else have any ideas about this?

My next thought (a fairly predictable one if you know me at all) is how we could get around this limitation through distributed cooperation rather than concentrated power and money. What kind of experiments could we perform by having thousands of people assist from home with. Could they try eating oyster mushrooms and looking for a change in cholesterol level? What kind of procedures in a lab would be hard to reproduce and which would be easier? I understand that this kind of experiment or data mining, wouldn’t be of the same rigorous type as one performed by scientists in a lab, but could we not still learn a great deal about it? How would a system which allowed for these kinds of experiments operate? Does this already exist?