Robert B. Beelman, Ph.D.

Robert B. Beelman, Ph.D.

  • Professor Emeritus of Food Science;
  • Director, Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health
404 Rodney A. Erickson Food Science Building
University Park, PA 16802

Areas of Expertise

  • Nutritional and medicinal properties of mushrooms
  • Antioxidants: selenium, ergothioneine and glutathione
  • Vitamin D enrichment of mushrooms
  • Regenerative agriculture effects on nutrient density of food


  • Ph.D., The Ohio State University, Ph.D. Food Technology, 1970
  • M.S., The Ohio State University, M.S. Food Technology, 1967
  • B.S., Capital University, B.S. Biology, 1966

Research Interests

  • Development of cultural and postharvest methods to enhance the nutritional and/or medicinal value of cultivated mushrooms
  • Evaluation of regenerative agricultural practices to improve soil health, the environment and nutrient density of the food supply 
  • Evaluation of Ergothioneine as a longevity vitamin to mitigate chronic diseases of aging and increase life expectancy

Current research focuses on the factors affecting the amount of Ergothioneine (ERGO) in the food supply.  ERGO is an amino acid with a unique structure that makes it a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that helps to mitigate chronic diseases of aging. Several leading scientists have indicated that it should be considered a “longevity vitamin” wherein shortage of it in the diet would result in cumulative negative health outcomes that can lead to premature aging.

Interestingly, all mammals produce a highly specific transport protein that rapidly pulls ERGO from food into red blood cells that distributes it to all tissues of the body where it accumulates in the tissues under the most oxidative stress and is avidly retained. This has led many scientists to believe ERGO must be important to our health and therefore should be a focus of their research and mounting scientific evidence supports this concept.

ERGO is produced in nature primarily by fungi and a few other microbes so humans must obtain from dietary sources.  Since mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, we have demonstrated that they are by far the leading dietary source and ERGO became the focus of our research at the Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health. However, because of relatively low mushroom consumption in the United States it has been estimated that ERGO consumption by Americans is low compared with other countries and that may be contributing to more chronic diseases of aging and lower life expectancies.

We hypothesized that ERGO gets into our food supply from soil-borne fungi that pass it on to crops through their roots. Therefore, healthy populations of fungi in our agricultural soils would be critical in producing crops with significant levels of ERGO. Through collaborations with soil scientists, we discovered that some conventional farming practices, such as excessive tillage (plowing) of the soil appear to disrupt fungal networks in the soil and significantly reduce the ERGO content of crops.

Elimination or reduction in severity of tillage is a hallmark of a growing movement referred to as regenerative farming that also involves the use of cover crops, multiple crop rotations and reduction in the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  All of these regenerative agricultural practices are known to enhance soil-borne fungal populations compared to conventional practices. Future studies will involve investigation on how they might improve ERGO content of our food supply.

There is currently much interest in the agricultural research community in exploring the connection between soil health and human health.  We believe that ERGO may well be such a definitive connection and understanding how to increase ERGO in the American diet could be transformative in improving our long-term health outcomes.

Recent Publications

Beelman R.B. (2022) Is a Powerhouse Nutrient Hiding in Plain Sight? Food Technol 76, 96. [Link]

Beelman R.B., Phillips A.T., Richie J.P., Ba D.M., Duiker S.W. & Kalaras M.D. (2022) Health consequences of improving the content of ergothioneine in the food supply. FEBS Lett, 1–10.

Ba, D.M., Gao, X., Al-Shaar, L., Muscat, J., Chinchilli, V., Beelman, R.B., Richie, J. P. (2022). Authors’ response: Mushroom intake and depression: A population-based study using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005–2016. Journal of Affective Disorders296, 668. [Link]

Ba D.M., Gao X., Al-Shaar L,. Muscat J.E,. Chinchilli V.M., Ssentongo P., Beelman R.B. & Richie J.P. (2022). Mushroom intake and cognitive performance among US older adults: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011–2014. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-8. [Link]

Whitmore C.A., Haynes J.R., Behof W.J., Rosenberg A.J., Tantawy M.N., Hachey B.C., Wadzinski B.E., Spiller B.W., Peterson T.E., Paffenroth K.C., Harrison F.E., Beelman R.B., Wijesinghe P., Matsubara J.A. & Pham W. (2022) Longitudinal Consumption of Ergothioneine Reduces Oxidative Stress and Amyloid Plaques and Restores Glucose Metabolism in the 5XFAD Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Pharmaceuticals 15, 742. [Link]

Behof W.J., Whitmore C.A., Haynes J.R., Rosenberg A.J., Tantawy M.N., Peterson T.E., Harrison F.E., Beelman R.B., Wijesinghe P., Matsubara J.A. & Pham W. (2022) Improved synthesis of an ergothioneine PET radioligand for imaging oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s disease. FEBS Lett 596, 1279–1289. [Link]

Beelman R.B., Richie J.P., Phillips A.T., Kalaras M.D., Sun D. & Duiker S.W. (2021) Soil Disturbance Impact on Crop Ergothioneine Content Connects Soil and Human Health. Agronomy 11, 2278.

Ba D.M, Gao X., Muscat J., Al-Shaar L,. Chinchilli V., Zhang X., Ssentongo P., Beelman R.B. & Richie J.P. Association of mushroom consumption with all-cause and cause-specific mortality among American adults: prospective cohort study findings from NHANES III. Nutr J 20, 38 (2021). [Link]

Ba D.M., Gao X., Al-Shaar L., Muscat J.E., Chinchilli V.M., Beelman R.B., Richie J.P. Mushroom intake and depression: A population-based study using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005-2016. J Affect Disord. 2021 Jul 22;294:686-692. [Link]

Ba, D.M., Ssentongo, P., Beelman, R.B., Muscat, J., Gao, X., Richie, J.P, Higher Mushroom Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, Advances in Nutrition, 2021;, nmab015, [Link]

Behof W.J., Whitmore C.A., Haynes J.R., Rosenberg A.J., Tantawy M.N., Peterson T.E., Harrison F.E., Beelman R.B. & Pham W. (2021) A novel antioxidant ergothioneine PET radioligand for in vivo imaging applications. Sci Rep 11, 1–11. [Link]

Winkels, R.M., van Brakel, L., van Baar, H., Beelman, R.B., van Duijnhoven, F.J.B., Geijsen, A., van Halteren, H.K., Hansson, B.M.E., Richie, J.P., Sun, D., Wesselink, E., van Zutphen, M., Kampman, E., Kok, D.E. Are ergothioneine levels in blood associated with chronic peripheral neuropathy in colorectal cancer patients who underwent chemotherapy? Nutr. Canc. 72 (3) (2020) 451–459.

Beelman, R.B, Kalaras, M.D., Phillips, A.T,, and Richie Jr., J.P, Is Ergothioneine a 'Longevity Vitamin' Limited in the American Diet? Journal of Nutritional Science. 2020, Vol. 9, e52, page 1 of 5.[Link]

Zhang, S., Sugawara, Y., Chen, S., Beelman, R.B., Tsuduki, T., Tomata, Y., Matsuyama, S. & Tsuji, I. (2020) Mushroom consumption and incident risk of prostate cancer in Japan: A pooled analysis of the Miyagi Cohort Study and the Ohsaki Cohort Study. Int J Cancer 146, 2712–2720. [Link]

Beelman R.B., Kalaras M.D., Richie J.P., Micronutrients and Bioactive Compounds in Mushrooms: A Recipe for Healthy Aging?, Nutrition Today. 2019, 54: 16-22. [Link].

Kalaras M.D, Richie J.P, Calcagnotto A., and Beelman R.B. Mushrooms: A rich source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and Glutathione. Food Chemistry 233: 429–433 (2017).

Calvo M.S., Mehrotra A., Beelman R.B., Nadkarni G., Wang L., Cai W., Goh B.C., Kalaras M.D., Uribarri J.  A Retrospective Study in Adults with Metabolic Syndrome: Diabetic Risk Factor Response to Daily Consumption of Agaricus bisporus (White Button Mushrooms). Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2016. 71, 245-51.

Feeney M.J., Dwyer J., Hasler-Lewis C.M., Milner J.A., Noakes M., Rowe S., Wach M., Beelman R.B., Caldwell J., Cantorna M.T., Castlebury L.A., Chang S.T., Cheskin L.J., Clemens R., Drescher G., Fulgoni V.L. III, Haytowitz D.B., Hubbard V.S., Law D., Myrdal Miller A., Minor B., Percival S.S., Riscuta G., Schneeman B., Thornsbury S., Toner C.D., Woteki C.E., Wu D. Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings. J. Nutr. 2014, 144(7):1128S-36S.

Mehrotra A., Calvo M.S., Beelman R.B., Levy E., Siuty J., Kalaras M.D., Uribarri J. Bioavailability of vitamin D2 from enriched mushrooms in prediabetic adults: a randomized controlled trial. European J. of Clinical Nutrition. 2014, 68, 1154–1160.

Royse, D.J. and Beelman, R.B. 2013. Six Steps to Mushroom Farming. The Pennsylvania State University, College of Agricultural Sciences, University Park, PA 16803. [Link]

Beelman, R.B. and Kalaras, M.D. 2012. Methods and composition for improving the nutritional content of mushrooms and fungi. U.S. Patent No. 8,337,921.

Weigand-Heller,  A.J., Kris-Etherton, P.M., Beelman, R.B. 2011. The bioavailability of ergothioneine from mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) and the acute effects on antioxidant capacity and biomarkers of inflammation. Preventative Medicine. December 31, 2011. [Link].

Kalaras, M.D., Beelman, R.B., Elias, R.J. 2012. Effects of postharvest pulsed UV light treatment of white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) on vitamin D2 content and quality attributes. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 60 (1) 220–225.[Link]

Xu, T., Beelman, R.B., Lambert, J.D. 2012 The Cancer Preventative Effects of Edible Mushrooms. Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 2012, 12, 1255-1263.

Kalaras, M.D., Beelman, R.B., Holick, M.F., Elias, R.J. 2012. Generation of potentially bioactive ergosterol-derived products following pulsed-ultraviolet light exposure of mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). 2012 Food Chemistry (135) 396-401.

Estrada A.E.R., Lee H.J., Beelman R.B., Jimenez-Gasco M.D., Royse D.J. Enhancement of the antioxidants ergothioneine and selenium in Pleurotus eryngii var. eryngii basidiomata through cultural practices. World J. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 25(9):1597-1607. (2009)

Corey M.E., Beelman R.B. & Seetharman K. Potential for Nutritional Enrichment of Whole-Wheat Bread with Portabella Mushroom Powder (Agaricus bisporus (J. Lge) Imbach, Agaricomycetideae). Int. J. Med. Mushrooms 11(2):157-166. (2009)

Morawicki, R.O. and R.B. Beelman. Study of the Biosynthesis of 1-Octen-3-ol Using a Crude Homogenate of Agaricus bisporus in a Bioreactor. Journal of Food Science 73:135-139 (2008)

Royse, D. J., Sanchez, J. E., Beelman, R. B., and Davidson, J. Re-supplementing and re-casing mushroom Agaricus bisporus compost for a second crop. World J. Microbiol Biotechnol. 24:319-325 (2008)

Dubost, N. J., Royse, D. J., and Beelman, R. B.  Influence of selected cultural factors and postharvest storage on ergothioneine content of common button mushroom Agaricus bisporus (j. Lge) Imbach (Agaricomycetideae).  Int. J. Med. Mush. 9: 163-176 (2007).

Dubost, N. J., Ou, Boxin, and Beelman, R. B.  Quantification of polyphenoes and ergothioneine in clultivated mushrooms and correlation to total antioxidant capacity, Food Chemistry 105. 717-735 (2007)

Dubost, N. J., Beelman, R., Peterson, D., and Royse, D. J.  Identification and quantification of ergothioneine in cultivated mushrooms by liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy.  Int. J. Med. Mush. 8:215-222 (2006).

Beelman, R. B., and D. J. Royse.  Selenium enrichment of Pleurotus cornucopiea (Paulet)and Grifola frondosa (Dichs.:  Fr.) S. F.  Mush.  Int. J. Med. Mush.  8:77-84 (2006).

Weil, D. A., Beelman, R. B., and Beyer, D. M.  Manganese and other micronutrient additions to improve yield of Agaricus bisporus.  Bioresource Technology.  97: 1012-1017 (2006).

Morawicki, R. O., Beelman, R. B., and Peterson, D.  Recovery and Purification of 10-oxo-trans-8-decenoic acid enzymatically produced using a crude homogenate of Agaricus bisporus.  J. Food Sci. 70 (8): 490-494 (2005).

Chikthimmah, N., LaBorde, L. F., and Beelman, R. B.  Hydrogen peroxide and calcium chloride added to irrigation water as a strategy to reduce bacterial population and improve quality of fresh mushrooms.  Journal of Food Science. 70 (6): 273-278 (2005).

Morawicki, R. O., Beelman R. B., and Peterson, D.  Biosynthesis of 1-octen-3-ol and 10-oxo-trans-8-decenoic acid using a crude homogenate of Agaricus bisporus: Reaction Scale Up.  J. Food Sci.  70 (5): 367-371 (2005).

Morawicki, R. O., Beelman, R. B., Peterson, D., Ziegler, G.  Biosynthesis of 1-octen-3-ol and 10-oxo-trans-8-decenoic acid using a crude homogenate of Agaricus bisporus.  Proc. Biochem. 40 (1): 131-137 (2005).

Beelman, R. B., Royse, D., and Chikthimmah, N.  Bioactive components in button mushroom Agaricus bisporus (J. Lge) Imbach (Agaricomycetideae) of nutritional, medicinal, or biological importance (Review).  Int. J. Med. Mush.  5 (4): 321-327 (2003).  

Chikthimmah, N., LaBorde, L. F., and Beelman, R. B.  Critical factors affecting the destruction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in apple cider treated with fumaric acid and sodium benzoate.  J. Food Sci.  68 (4): 1438-1442 (2003).  

Werner, A. W., and Beelman, R. B.  Growing high-selenium edible and medicinal button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus (J. Lge) Imbach) as ingredients for functional foods or dietary supplements.  Int. J. Med. Mush.  4 (2): 194-210 (2002).  

Comes, J. E., and Beelman, R. B.  Addition of fumaric acid and sodium benzoate as an alternative method to achieve a 5-log reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 populations in apple cider.  J. Food. Protect.  65(3): 476-483 (2002).

Spolar, M.R., Schaffer, E.M., Beelman, R.B. and Milner, J.A.  Selenium-enriched Agaricus bisporus mushrooms suppress 7,12-dimethlybenz(A)anthracene bioactivation in mammary tissue.  Cancer Letters.  138:145-50  (1999).

Courses Taught

FDSC 413: Science and Technology of Plant Foods 
Wine Technology and Appreciation