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 and ergothioneine
  • Vitamin D-enrichment of mushrooms


  • 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

New release: Beelman retires after 40 years of service

Research Interests

General area of research interest involves development of cultural and postharvest practices for fruit, vegetable and mushrooms to improve their composition, quality, stability and safety of food products produced from them. Recent research has focused on development of methods to enhance the levels of important bioactive components of cultivated mushrooms in order to improve their nutritional/and or medicinal value.  For example, commercially practical methods have been developed to enhance the levels of selenium, ergothioneine and ergocalciferol (Vit. D2) that can make mushrooms, or their products, as the best sources of these compounds in a plant-based diet.

Selenium levels can be increased to predictable levels by the addition of sodium selenite to the growth substrate via addition to commercially-produced compost supplements and the mushrooms incorporate the selenium into organic form, mostly into selenomethione.  Selenium-enriched fresh mushrooms can be can be cultivated as an excellent dietary source of selenium or they can be enriched to very high levels that can be used as dietary supplements or food ingredients that can be employed to enrich other food products with selenomethione.

Ergothioneine (Ergo) is a very stable and potent antioxidant that is produced in nature only by fungi and a few Mycobacteria.  Apparently, Ergo gets into the food chain via plants that take it up from fungi growing in the soil.  We recently demonstrated that Ergo is concentrated in mushrooms to levels that make mushrooms by far the best known dietary source.  We have identified cultural methods to enhance the levels of Ergo beyond what is naturally present.  Since Ergo is the only known dietary antioxidant that has its own genetically-coded transporter in humans, considerable interest has arisen from researchers world-wide to investigate its physiological function and possible nutritional role. Most recent research indicates that it protects developing erythrocytes against damage from ferryl hemoglobin, a highly reactive intermediate in auto-catalytic oxidation that leads to heme degradation.  This led German pharmacology researchers to conclude "a lack or Ergo may represent a precipitating factor in the genesis of of chronic inflammatory diseases" and "supplementation of Ergo could provide a new therapeutic strategy for chronic inflammatory diseases."

Current research is also focused on developing practical methods to enrich mushrooms with Vit D2 by converting naturally-present ergosterol to ergocalciferol (Vit D2) by exposure to UV light.  We pioneered the use of Pulsed UV light to do this rapidly and effectively.  Mushrooms with 200 per cent of the current RDA for Vit D can be produced in one second of postharvest exposure to a Xenon Corp UVB bulb without any adverse effects on product quality. For results see Vitamin D Research.

Recent Publications

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).

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).

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). 

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). 

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). 

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).

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).

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.  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).

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).

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).

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).

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., 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).

Beelman, R.B. and Kalaras, M.D. Methods and Compositions For Improving the Nutritional Content of Mushrooms and Fungi. Provisonal US Patent Application. (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)

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)

Corey ME, Beelman RB & 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)

Estrada AER, Lee HJ, Beelman RB, Jimenez-Gasco MD & Royse DJ. 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)

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

Xu, Tongtong, Robert B. Beelman and Joshua D. Lambert. 2012 The Cancer Preventative Effects of Edible Mushrooms. Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 2012, 12, 1255-1263.

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]

Weigand-Heller, AuBrei J., Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Robert B. Beelman. 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].

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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).

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].

Shu Zhang, Yumi Sugawara, Shiuan Chen, Robert B. Beelman, Tsuyoshi Tsuduki, Yasutake Tomata, Sanae Matsuyama and Ichiro Tsuji, Mushroom consumption and incident risk of prostate cancer in Japan: A pooled analysis of the Miyagi Cohort Study and the Ohsaki Cohort Study, International Journal of Cancer. (2019) [Link]

Djibril M Ba, Paddy Ssentongo, Robert B Beelman, Joshua Muscat, Xiang Gao, John P Richie, Jr, Higher Mushroom Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, Advances in Nutrition, 2021;, nmab015,

Courses Taught

FDSC 413: Science and Technology of Plant Foods
AG 150: First Year Seminar