Eating mushrooms can cut cognitive decline risk, study finds

Eating mushrooms could reduce the risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease this month found.

Researchers with the Department of Psychological Medicine and Department of Biochemistry at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in Singapore spent six years — from 2011 to 2017 — collecting data from more than 600 Chinese seniors (60 years of age or older) living in the city-state.

They found that those who ate more than two standard portions — two standard portions are equivalent to about half a plate, researchers said — a week “may have 50 percent reduced odds” of having MCI.

MCI, according to a statement on the findings from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, is “the stage between the cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia.”

“Seniors afflicted with MCI often display some form of memory loss or forgetfulness and may also show a deficit in other cognitive functions such as language, attention, and visuospatial abilities. However, the changes can be subtle, as they do not experience the disabling cognitive deficits that affect everyday life activities, which is characteristic of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,” it explains.

Though the study specifically referenced six types of mushrooms — golden, oyster, shiitake, white button mushrooms, dried mushrooms and canned mushrooms — the scientists noted that other types of mushrooms could also have similar benefits.

A certain compound found in the mushroom varieties studied — ergothioneine (ET) — might be linked to “the reduced prevalence of MCI in mushroom eaters,” they said.

“ET is a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to synthesize on their own. But it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms,” Irwin Cheah, a senior research fellow from NUS Biochemistry, said in the statement.

Feng Lei, the study’s lead author, called the discovery “surprising and encouraging.”

“It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline,” Lei added.

Other foods, too, are also said to help improve brain function. Berries, nuts and seeds, whole grains, avocados, and eggs, among others, are also beneficial for brain health in both the short and long term, Medical News Today reported.

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