- A recent study from Singapore found that eating weekly portions of mushrooms can reduce brain decline and protect it from memory and language problems.
- Results indicated that people over the age of 60 have lower risks of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) if they eat two portions or more of mushrooms in a week.
- MCI is a condition when people aged more than 60 experience greater memory, language and thinking problems.
Findings from a study conducted by the National University of Singapore revealed that a unique antioxidant in mushrooms may protect the brain by preventing memory and language problems from occurring.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage where people become forgetful. It involves problems with memory, language, attention, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes. Although the changes can be subtle, it is not serious enough to be considered dementia.
In a 6-year study (2011 to 2017) on the diet and lifestyle of 663 Chinese adults with ages over 60, participants were asked how often they ate six different types of mushrooms namely- oyster, shiitake, white button, dried, golden and tinned.
Results showed that the more mushrooms people eat, the lower are their chances of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Out of 100 people who ate two portions of mushrooms weekly, about nine were diagnosed with MCI, compared with 19 from the 100 who ate less than one portion.
Furthermore, those who ate the mushroom performed better and faster in brain tests, which were especially noted among those who ate more than two portions a week, or more than 300g (10.5oz).
“The correlation is surprising and encouraging,” said lead author and assistant professor Lei Feng, from the university’s department of psychological medicine.
While the researchers also consider the benefits of other factors such as tea, green leafy vegetables, nuts and fish, they pointed out that mushrooms are one of the richest sources of ergothioneine. This amino acid is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which cannot be produced by humans. It is also rich in other nutrients and minerals like vitamin D, selenium and spermidine, which protect neurons from damage.
However, despite the findings, the researchers said the results are not enough to prove that a direct link between the fungi and brain function exists and can be established.
Since the study mainly depended on mushroom and other dietary factors intake, the researchers acknowledge that data may not be too accurate.
“There are lots of factors that contribute to the development of dementia and it’s estimated that up to a third of cases could be prevented by changes in lifestyle, including diet,” says Dr. James Pickett, Alzheimer’s Society head of research.
Nevertheless, he suggested that to reduce risks, people can take action by including mushrooms in their diet as a starting point, as the same time cutting down on sugar and salt, being physically active, drinking in moderation and quit smoking.
The study is released in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.