Mushrooms are kind of scary. They are fungus. They look funny.
We wonder if some of them give us warts. We know some of them are poisonous.
But what if they may also keep you from losing brain function as you get older? A new study shows this is the case.
Scientists found that just two servings of mushrooms a week can reduce the odds of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) by over 50%.
MCI is not the same as Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association says that 15-20% of people 65 and older have Mild Cognitive Impairment. It causes “slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills.”
In other words, it’s a noticeable change that you and your family will notice, but not enough to interfere with your life or enough to keep you from doing things on your own.
While having MCI will increase your risk of developing dementia, it doesn’t always get worse.
If you get MCI you might notice that your language skills decrease, your attention span changes or you might not be able to play catch with a grandchild. But you are not at risk of harming yourself or others because you are confused.
But who wants MCI, if you can cut your risk of it in half just by eating some good mushrooms?
The study was conducted by the Department of Psychological Medicine and Biochemistry at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in Singapore and the results were published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on 12 March 2019.
A portion was defined as three-quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of around 150 grams. Two portions would be equivalent to approximately half a plate.
While the portion sizes act as a guideline, it was shown that even one small portion of mushrooms a week may still be beneficial to reduce chances of MCI.
The study was conducted over six years on over 600 Chinese who were 60 and over.
“This correlation is surprising and encouraging. It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline,” said Assistant Professor Feng Lei, who is from NUS Psychological Medicine, and the lead author of this work.
The study looked at six commonly consumed mushrooms in Singapore and also eaten in the U.S. They were golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms.
They believe other mushrooms might have the same effect.
The School of Medicine reported:
“We’re very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET),” said Dr Irwin Cheah, Senior Research Fellow from NUS Biochemistry. “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.”
The researchers believe that low ET is the reason for reduced brain function based on their earlier research.
The study showed that the reduced risk did not depend on age, sex, education, smoking habits, stroke, diabetes, heart disease or social activities.
In short, the only difference was 50% less MCI when you eat two or more servings of mushrooms a week.
What a tasty way to keep your brain function.