Press release

Lose weight with mushrooms

10 Men; 6 weeks; Total weight loss: 21,3kg
A recent weight loss study, commissioned by the South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association (SAMFA) and conducted by Mbali Mapholi1 has proven that this super good Superfood may just be our greatest weight loss ally.  They’re low in energy but high in nutrients and provide a convenient and delicious way to assist in weight loss. 
The study’s main objective was to illustrate that by simply swapping meat for mushrooms assists in weight loss predominantly because of the low calorie content of versatile, delicious and nutrient-rich mushrooms.2 
It was the second such study commissioned by SAMFA, the first having been commissioned in 2010. “Our first study,” says SAMFA chairperson Ross Richardson, “motivated by exceptionally positive results achieved by similar studies in both the UK and the US through their Mushroom Councils and boards, yielded positive weight loss results.  It is now nearly 6 years later and we are delighted to report that the second study supported the results of the first in terms of successful, balanced weight loss.”

What was the key dietary modification?

Four meat meals a week were replaced with four mushroom meals (created by the nutritionist specifically for the study) for enhanced flavour and reduced calorie, sodium and cholesterol intake. 

What was the result?

Ten overweight men (between the ages of 30 and 45) lost a total of 21,3kg and experienced a total cm loss of 38,4 over the 6-week study period. The biggest loser recorded a total weight loss of 13% (6kg) and a drop in BMI from 27.3kg.m-2 to 25.1 kg.m.  This is an excellent result and in line with the recommended healthy weight loss of 0.5 to 1 kg a week.
In both studies the volunteers were male. “Diets are often a challenge for men as they generally go hand-in-hand with deprivation,” explains Richardson. “The mushroom diet on the other hand is not actually a diet but more a lifestyle change: it aims to reduce meat intake and increase mushroom intake. The research studies have proven that the meatiness of mushrooms made it easy for the volunteers participating in the study to stick to the prescribed programme. 
Other key results include
  1. Waist circumference dropped an average of 4.64cm overall, with the most successful participant dropping 9.5cm
  2. The average kilojoule difference between the meat meals and the mushroom meals was 1137.77kj
  3. The average difference in total fat intake between the meat meals and the mushrooms meals was 20.93g
  4. Mushrooms scored very well on palatability. Results showed that the mushroom recipes provided for the study were acceptable to the participants 90% of the time, scoring 1188 points out of 1320. The overall views were that the mushroom recipes tasted good; had good flavour, were easy to prepare and not as costly as they imagined they would be especially when compared to the meat recipes.  

About the volunteer participants

  1. Males aged between 30 to 45 years, overweight with a body mass index (BMI) above 25kg.m. 
  2. Most of them had not intention to lose weight or to be on any weight loss diet.
  3. An important factor to highlight is that mushrooms were a completely new ingredient to most of the participants. Many had not even tried mushrooms before embarking on the diet and even those familiar with mushrooms, acknowledged that mushrooms were not part of their day-to-day diet. 
  4. Thirteen men completed the study. Three men who did not lose weight and were excluded from final analysed results to avoid discrepancies. The main reasons include the following; not being fully compliant with the diet and inconsistency with physical exercise, lack of availability to see the dietician on a weekly basis
  5. Participants were given a food diary and a palatability survey book to keep for the entire 6-week period. 
  6. The weight loss progress was recorded using the weekly changes in anthropometric parameters such as weight, waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) over the period of 6 weeks. 
  7. The Mushroom Swap Diet was structured in a way that made it easy to follow, sustainable and still within normal household budget. 
  8. Concludes Ms Mapholi, the nutritionist who conducted the study, “The Mushroom Swap Diet was mostly aimed at weight loss. However, exposing the black community to mushrooms especially males was another great achievement. Black men are known to love meat and to hear them say they will eat a mushroom meal even when the study was completed was another indication of the success of the Mushroom Swap Diet and the ease with which mushrooms can be introduced to a predominantly meat-based diet.”
  1. Mbali Mapholi: MiNutrition ZA (Pty) Ltd (BScDiet, PGDip & BScHons: University of KwaZulu-Natal)
  2. Full details of the study and the mushroom recipes provided are available on the SAMFA website:
  3. Other factors that also contributed to weight loss were keeping to the prescribed diet, consistent exercise and total commitment
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