AHCC Supplement Health Benefits and Side Effects

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Active Hexose Correlated Compound or AHCC for short is a supplement that’s used primarily in Asia, usually as a complementary treatment for serious diseases like cancer. When used in combination with chemotherapy it can enhance the treatment and protect against side effects.

AHCC is derived from an extract of hybridized Basidiomycetes, which includes a popular mushroom known as Shiitake. This unique species with a blend of alpha and beta-glucan provide significant antioxidant benefits as well as enhance immune responses to disease.

I’ve used AHCC supplements many times in the past. It’s quite expensive compared to the standard beta glucan supplements you’ll find in the store, but it’s worth having around in case you develop an infection.

AHCC was one of the main supplements I used in combination with antibiotics to treat a difficult-to-treat bacterial infection I had around 10 years ago. It seemed quite effective in helping reduce inflammation and symptoms of infection, and I believe contributed to me being able to cure it.

Benefits of AHCC

There are numerous benefits of AHCC, so in this article, I’ll take a look at some of the latest research and findings from clinical trials and studies. Immunotherapy in cancer research has been a hot area for the last few years, and AHCC may be one good natural supplement to take to enhance immunity.

Boosts Immune System

Our innate and adaptive immune system are both crucial in keeping us alive. Over time, the immune system can become weak due to nutrient deficiencies, lack of sleep, chronic infections and aging. As you get older it becomes harder to fight off infections that your immune system could simply shrug off.

Natural compounds food supplements like AHCC has been shown to boost various parts of the immune which are important for fighting off bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.

The innate part of the immune system is the most primitive and acts almost immediately in response to invaders. And if it’s not defeated in time, the adaptive immune system starts going into high-gear producing antibodies by T cells and B cells.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers looked at the immunological effects of AHCC on various immune system parameters.

Healthy volunteers who were given AHCC at 3.0 grams per day for 4 weeks were studied to see the effect of AHCC on immune cells. The study found that the AHCC group had a significantly higher number of dendric cells

Dendric cells help initiate T cell response and are important for innate and adaptive immune system communication.

AHCC effect on the Innate Immune System

  • Increases the production of various pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory cytokines to attract immune cells and regulate the immune response
  • Increases the number of Natural Killer cells by up to 800% in clinical trials
  • Can double the number of macrophages which engulfs foreign invaders and debris from the fallout
  • Increases the number of dendric cells in the body which help initiate the response by B cells and T cells

AHCC effect on the adaptive immune system

  • Clinical trials on humans have shown that AHCC can increase T cells by up to 200% in healthy adults
  • Continued benefit for at least 30 days after stopping AHCC on T4 helper cells and T8 suppressor/killer cells

Bacterial infections

Over the last few decades, antibiotic use has increased and as a consequence, the world is heading towards crises with super resistance bacteria which may make the antibiotics we use and depend on completely useless.

Using natural compounds like AHCC and other beta glucans to prevent and enhance the effectiveness of antibiotics has been studied and show some remarkable synergistic effects.

Most of the research done so far appears to be using beta-glucans, but AHCC has similar or more potent effects due to its high amount of alpha-glucans.

In a study published in 2008 in the American Journal of Surgery, researches looked at the effect of AHCC on post-surgical wound infection in mice.

The AHCC group had significantly reduced bacterial load by day 5 and cleared the bacterial infection entirely by day 6 of the treatment. The AHCC group appeared to have a more robust and rapid immune response with levels of IL-12, TNF-a, and IL-6 peaking at day 3 compared to day 6 for the control group.

As reported in earlier studies, AHCC was able to increase levels of lymphocytes and monocytes, thus leading to an increased number of macrophages to clear the infection. [2-3].

In a study not on AHCC, but using PGC-Beta glucan (beta glucan are also found in AHCC), researchers found that supplementing patients who underwent high-risk gastrointestinal surgery was able to reduce serious post-operative infections or death by 39%. [4].

There are many other studies which show similar results in being able to significantly reduce death from many types of bacterial infections, even anthrax-infected mice.

Where survival was increased from 30% to 90% after they were given beta-glucan 10 days post-infection. If they were given beta glucan before the infection, they had 100% survival [5].

Combining AHCC or beta glucans could be an effective strategy to use with antibiotics to increase their effectiveness.

Viral infections

There is a lot more research on AHCC and viral infections and immune compared to bacterial infections. If you could take something which would prevent the common cold or flu, AHCC might be a good candidate according to research.

Even when AHCC is given at low doses, it is able to help improve immune system response to influenza infection. This is without any increase in Natural Killer cell cytotoxicity [6].

Another study published in 2006 showed that mice given AHCC had improved survival compared to controls and reduces the severity of influenza infection in the young mice. Natural Killer cell activity was also significantly enhanced.

Other studies have shown that AHCC to improve outcomes and survival for avian flu as well.

Improved antibody response to influenza B vaccine

In a randomized controlled study, 30 healthy adults were given 3 grams of AHCC per day, immediately after the injection. The study had one treatment and one group.

In the subjects given the AHCC were shown to have increased Natural Killer T Cells and CD8 T cells post-vaccination. Antibodies were measured at 3 weeks post-vaccination and the AHCC also showed significantly improved antibody production, while the improvement in the control group was not significant [7].

Antibody response to vaccines can vary depending on age, nutrition, and other factors. AHCC might be able to make vaccines more effective in healthy patients and those who don’t respond well.

AHCC improves T cell immune response in healthy adults

In another study published in 2010, AHCC was given to healthy adults who were at least 50 years old. The study found that AHCC was able to significantly enhance CD4 and CD8 T cell immune responses and the effect persisted even after they discounted the supplement for 30 days.

AHCC could an effective way to boost resistance to viral infections in the elderly and those who have a compromised immune system.

AHCC cures HPV infection in Women

In 2014 some amazing results came out of a small clinical trial on using AHCC to treat HPV-positive women. In short, the study was very successful. After six months of being given AHCC, five of the patients received a negative HPV test result and three confirmed eradication of the virus after stopping the supplement.

The remaining responders to the supplement continued on with the study to complete it.

HPV is associated with over 99% of cervical cancer cases in women but is also responsible for several other cancers as well.

Since the study showed an overwhelmingly positive result, they immediately set up a Phase II randomized, placebo-controlled trial at Houston Medical School.

Cancer

Over at AHCC Research, there are many studies available to read on AHCC being used to treat cancer and also reduce side effects from chemotherapy.

Two types of cancer that AHCC appears to be very effective at improving survival are gastric cancer and colon cancer.

In a study between 1995 – 2002, 245 patients were recruited into the study to use AHCC in combination with standard treatment using chemotherapy.

Patients who had stage 1-3 gastric or colon cancer were given 3.0 grams per day of AHCC, while Stage IV patients were given 6.0 grams a day (3 times daily).

Compared to the 5 Year Survival by Japanese gastric cancer associated and other Japanese Institutions, the 5-year survival study which included AHCC as part of the standard treatment protocol did much better.

Gastric cancer survival rates (AHCC vs Standard treatment)

Stage 5 Year Survival (AHCC) Standard Treatment
Japanese Gastric Association
Standard Treatment
Other Japanese Institutions
Stage IA 100% 93.4% 91.5 – 93.4% Survival
Stage IB 100% 87.0% 85.5 – 88.7%
Stage II 92.3% 68.3% 74.9 – 75.9%
Stage IIIA 82.8% 50.1% 53.6 – 61.7%
Stage IIB 35.7% 30.8% 40.4% – 42.4%
Stage IV 14.3% 16.6% Stage IVA – 14.3 – 19.7%
Stage IVB – 4%

Colon cancer survival rates (AHCC vs Standard treatment)

Stage 5 Year Survival (AHCC) 5 Year Survival
Other Japanese Institutions
Stage 0 100% 100%
Stage I 100% 93 -100%
Stage II 100% 81 – 88%
Stage IIIA 95.2% 73 – 76%
Stage IIIB 73.3% 63 – 78%
Stage IV 7.1% 0 – 17%

As you can see from these tables, AHCC in combination with chemotherapy significantly enhances the survival of patients with stomach cancer and colon cancer. You can see more details from this paper here.

More recent studies have found that AHCC is also helpful for people who have unresectable pancreatic cancer.

Patients given 6.0 grams of AHCC for 2 months were found to have improved biomarkers (CRP and albumin), as less grade 3 Glasgow prognostic score during chemotherapy int he AHCC group (14% compared to 53% in the controls) [8].

Side effects

AHCC has a good safety record and has bees shown to be safe with minimal side effects at currently recommended doses. Side effects usually low with no major changes in blood work.

In 2007, a phase I clinical trial involving healthy volunteers were given AHCC for 14 days. 26 healthy males and females between the age of 18 and 61 were in the study.

Each was given 9 grams of AHCC per day (liquid form) and then monitored for side effects.

Two subjects (7%) experienced nausea from consuming the liquid. Some patients reported transient adverse reactions such as cramps, headache, diarrhea, and general fatigue, but these only occurred in 6 subjects. They concluded that 85% of the subjects were able to tolerate the supplement at a high dose (9 grams).

Most studies involve patients taking AHCC between 3 – 6 grams per day. For maintaining a healthy immune system and maintenance dose, this can be as low as 500-750 mg per day, which should result in fewer side effects.

References

1. Immunological effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) in healthy volunteers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(5):643-51

2. Effects of the active hexose correlated compound on the frequency of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells producing interferon-γ and/or tumor necrosis factor-α in healthy adults. Hum Immunol. 2010 Dec10.1016/j.humimm.2010.08.006. Epub 2010 Aug 21.

3. Active hexose correlated compound activates the immune function to decrease bacterial load in a murine model of intramuscular infection. Am J Surg. 2008 Apr

4. Effect of PGG-glucan on the Rate of Serious Postoperative Infection or Death Observed After High-Risk Gastrointestinal Operations. Arch Surg. 1999

5. Anthrax-protective effects of yeast beta 1,3 glucans. MedGenMed. 2003 Mar 21;5(1):1.

6. Low-dose supplementation with active hexose correlated compound improves the immune response to acute influenza infection in C57BL/6 mice. Nutr Res. 2009 Feb

7. Short-term supplementation with active hexose correlated compound improves the antibody response to influenza B vaccine. Nutr Res. 2013 Jan

8. Alleviating Effect of Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) on Chemotherapy-Related Adverse Events in Patients with Unresectable Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma. Nutr Cancer. 2016

9. A phase I study of the safety of the nutritional supplements, active hexose correlated compound, AHCC, in healthy volunteers. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo)

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