AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) is a natural substance extracted from certain species of basidiomycetes (a class of mushrooms that includes shiitake). Available in supplement form, AHCC is known to act as an antioxidant. While research on AHCC's heath effects is fairly limited, proponents claim that taking AHCC can produce a variety of health benefits.
Uses for AHCCAHCC is said to stimulate the immune system and increase your defense against viral infections, including the flu and the common cold. Many proponents also suggest that AHCC can help protect against cancer and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. In addition, AHCC is said to help prevent heart disease and treat hepatitis.
Benefits of AHCCSo far, few clinical trials have tested the health effects of AHCC. Still, some preliminary research shows that AHCC may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at several key findings from the available research:
1) AHCC and the Immune System
AHCC may help boost immunity, according to a small 2008 clinical trial in Nutrition and Cancer. For the study, 21 healthy volunteers took either an AHCC supplement or a placebo every day for four weeks. At the study's end, members of the AHCC group showed a significantly greater increase in the number of dendritic cells (a type of cell involved in the immune response).
2) AHCC and Chemotherapy Side EffectsAnimal-based research shows that AHCC may help reduce certain side effects of chemotherapy. For instance, in a 2009 report from the Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology, scientists discovered that treating mice with AHCC helped shield them from chemotherapy-induced liver damage and bone marrow suppression. However, it's too soon to tell whether AHCC may also help alleviate chemotherapy side effects in humans.
3) AHCC and CancerAHCC may help inhibit cancer development, according to a 2006 animal-based study in Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy. In an experiment involving mice inoculated with cancer cells, AHCC treatment significantly enhanced immune response and delayed tumor development.
4) AHCC and Inflammatory Bowel DiseaseAHCC shows promise in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. In a 2007 study on rats (Journal of Nutrition), researchers found that AHCC helped reduce inflammation and enhanced several markers of colon health in rats with colitis.
5) AHCC and the FluIn tests on mice, scientists have demonstrated that AHCC may help rev up immune response to flu infection. For example, in a 2006 study from the Journal of Nutrition, AHCC appeared to reduce the severity of flu infection and boost activity in natural killer cells (a major player in immune response) in influenza-infected mice.
Is AHCC Safe?Little is known about the safety of long-term use of AHCC. However, there's some concern that AHCC may trigger mild side effects, including diarrhea and itching.
Where to Find AHCCWidely available for purchase online, AHCC supplements are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.
Should You Use AHCC for Health Purposes?Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend AHCC for any health condition. What's more, there's insufficient evidence to support the claim that AHCC can prevent cancer. To lower your overall cancer risk, the National Cancer Institute recommends you avoid cigarette-smoking and tobacco use; limit your exposure to radiation; and get screened for precancerous conditions. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a normal weight may also help prevent cancer.
If you're considering the use of AHCC for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a chronic condition with AHCC and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.
Daddaoua A, Martínez-Plata E, López-Posadas R, Vieites JM, González M, Requena P, Zarzuelo A, Suárez MD, de Medina FS, Martínez-Augustin O. "Active hexose correlated compound acts as a prebiotic and is antiinflammatory in rats with hapten-induced colitis." J Nutr. 2007 May;137(5):1222-8.
Gao Y, Zhang D, Sun B, Fujii H, Kosuna K, Yin Z. "Active hexose correlated compound enhances tumor surveillance through regulating both innate and adaptive immune responses." Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2006 Oct;55(10):1258-66.
National Cancer Institute. "Cancer Prevention Overview." Last accessed on February 13, 2012.
Nogusa S, Gerbino J, Ritz BW. "Low-dose supplementation with active hexose correlated compound improves the immune response to acute influenza infection in C57BL/6 mice." Nutr Res. 2009 Feb;29(2):139-43.
Ritz BW, Nogusa S, Ackerman EA, Gardner EM. "Supplementation with active hexose correlated compound increases the innate immune response of young mice to primary influenza infection." J Nutr. 2006 Nov;136(11):2868-73.
Shigama K, Nakaya A, Wakame K, Nishioka H, Fujii H. "Alleviating effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) for anticancer drug-induced side effects in non-tumor-bearing mice." J Exp Ther Oncol. 2009;8(1):43-51.
Terakawa N, Matsui Y, Satoi S, Yanagimoto H, Takahashi K, Yamamoto T, Yamao J, Takai S, Kwon AH, Kamiyama Y. "Immunological effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) in healthy volunteers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(5):643-51.