Alterations of gut microbiota are evident during the aging process. Prebiotics may restore the gut microbial balance, with β-glucans emerging as prebiotic candidates. This study aimed to investigate the impact of edible mushrooms rich in β-glucans on the gut microbiota composition and metabolites by using in vitro static batch culture fermentations and fecal inocula from elderly donors (n = 8). Pleurotus ostreatus, P. eryngii, Hericium erinaceus and Cyclocybe cylindracea mushrooms derived from various substrates were examined. Gut microbiota composition (quantitative PCR (qPCR)) and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs; gas chromatography (GC)) were determined during the 24-h fermentation. P. eryngii induced a strong lactogenic effect, while P. ostreatus and C. cylindracea induced a significant bifidogenic effect (p for all <0.05). Furthermore, P. eryngii produced on wheat straw and the prebiotic inulin had comparable Prebiotic Indexes, while P. eryngii produced on wheat straw/grape marc significantly increased the levels of tested butyrate producers. P. ostreatus, P. eryngii and C. cylindracea had similar trends in SCFA profile; H. erinaceus mushrooms were more diverse, especially in the production of propionate, butyrate and branched SCFAs. In conclusion, mushrooms rich in β-glucans may exert beneficial in vitro effects in gut microbiota and/or SCFAs production in elderly subjects.
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