Estrogen is a female growth hormone, which gives breast cells the green light to start dividing. Approximately 60-70% of post-menopausal women have breast cancers that are dependent on estrogen for survival and are characterized by increased estrogen production. It is not surprising, then, that multiple chemotherapeutic strategies focus on targeting different aspects of estrogen synthesis. One such therapy is centered on inhibiting aromatase, an enzyme that is responsible for converting androgens to estrogen. Chemical inhibitors of aromatase activity have been shown to be somewhat successful in clinical trials, with decreased incidence of breast cancer progression.
Luckily for us, naturally occurring aromatase inhibitors can be found in a variety of vegetables. In 2006, an article published in Cancer Research suggested that several types of mushrooms (portobello, white button, shiitake) possess natural aromatase inhibitors. The authors show that mushrooms contain a specific unsaturated fatty acid called (conjugated) linoleic acid, which can inhibit aromatase activity in biochemical assays. They went on to find that both concentrated mushroom extract and linoleic acid alone can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells with high levels of aromatase, but had little affect on normal breast cell proliferation. Furthermore, they were able to show that mice, which were fed a diet supplemented with the concentrated mushroom extract, displayed decreased breast tumor growth.
It’s important to remember that naturally occurring molecules found in food often exist at much lower levels in the body versus that which can be achieved by chemical compounds. However, the authors make a great point that the amount of mushroom extract fed to the mice was physiologically relevant, equaling about 100g of mushrooms. I think this reinforces the idea that incorporating mushrooms into our daily diet may be helpful in keeping estrogen levels in check and preventing breast cancer formation.
Based on this work, I wanted to create a recipe that incorporates a healthy dose of mushrooms. My boyfriend, SB, and I started to make these pizzas pretty frequently after we decided to start cutting out foods that contain processed flours, etc. Pizza was one of my favorite dishes and this mushroom recipe takes some of the best flavors from pizza and makes it a whole lot healthier.
- 4 large portobello mushroom caps (2 per person)
- 1 package of hot italian sausage
- 1 green pepper, chopped fine
- 1 red pepper, chopped fine
- Organic pizza sauce
- Fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
- Preheat oven to 450ºF
- Line a large cookie sheet with foil and grease lightly with coconut oil
- Clean mushroom using a damp paper towel and arrange on the pan so that the undersides of the mushrooms are facing up
- Cook mushrooms for 10-15 minutes. This will promote “wilting” of the mushroom caps and force out any excess liquid (larger/thicker mushroom caps will require longer cooking time)
- While mushrooms are cooking, brown sausage and peppers in a skillet
- Remove mushroom caps from oven and sop up any excess liquid using a paper towel (BE CAREFUL; mushrooms and liquid will be HOT!)
- Place 1- 2 tbs of pizza sauce into the mushroom cap lid
- Add 1-2 tbs of sausage and pepper mixture.
- Gently place 2 thin slices of mozzarella cheese on top
- Cook at 450ºF for 5-10 min
- Turn on broiler and broil on HIGH for 3-5 minutes until the cheese browns
- Anti-Aromatase Activity of Phytochemicals in White Button Mushrooms ( Agaricus bisporus). Shiuan Chen, Sei-Ryang Oh, Sheryl Phung, et al. Cancer Res 2006;66:12026-12034. Published online December 18, 2006.
- White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. Grube BJ, Eng ET, Kao YC, Kwon A, Chen S. J Nutr. 2001 Dec;131(12):3288-93.