Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that seniors who consume more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may reduce their odds of having mild cognitive impairment (MCI) by 50 percent.
A portion was defined as three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of around 150 grams, NUS said in a press statement.
The research was completed by a team from the Department of Psychological Medicine and Department of Biochemistry at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
The six-year study was conducted from 2011 to 2017, with data from more than 600 Chinese seniors over the age of 60 living in Singapore. “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.
MCI is typically viewed as the stage between the cognitive decline of normal ageing and the more serious decline of dementia. Affected seniors often display some form of memory loss or forgetfulness. They may also show a deficit in other cognitive functions such as language, attention, and visuospatial abilities.
Six commonly consumed mushrooms in Singapore were referenced in the study. They were golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms. However, it is likely that other mushrooms not referenced would have also indicated beneficial effects.
The researchers believe the reason for the reduced prevalence of MCI in mushroom eaters may be down to a specific compound found in almost all varieties. “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 synthesise on their own. But it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms.”