Eating mushrooms has a number of health benefits and a number of health experts recommend adding it to a vegetarian diet. Now a new study, conducted by researchers at National University of Singapore (NUS), has found that older people who consume more than two standard portions of mushroom per week, have half the risk of developing cognitive impairments. The study defined one portion of mushrooms as three fourth of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of about 150 grams. Two portions of mushroom will then be half a plate. The researchers said that while this portion size was indicative of nutritional guidelines, even one small portion of cooked mushrooms per week was enough to keep away Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in March 2019 and it was carried out by researchers from the Department of Psychological Medicine and Department of Biochemistry at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at NUS, with the support of the Singapore Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council. The study was conducted over a period of six years between 2011 and 2017 and it analysed the data obtained from 600 Chinese senior citizens with the age of over 60 years. All the participants were residing in Singapore during the period of the study. The research referenced six types of commonly consumed mushrooms in Singapore, including shiitake, white button mushrooms, oyster and golden mushrooms.
The researchers surmised that the neuro-protective effects of mushrooms may be credited to the presence of a single compound that is said to present in almost all varieties of mushrooms- ergothioneine (ET). The researchers said that this compound has unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and humans are unable to synthesise this compound on their own in their bodies. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is typified by symptoms like memory loss and subsequent forgetfulness, as well as impaired cognitive functions involving language, attention span etc.
The study results said, "Compared with participants who consumed mushrooms less than once per week, participants who consumed mushrooms greater than two portions per week had reduced odds of having MCI and this association was independent of age, gender, education, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, physical activities, and social activities." The study further added by saying that the data supported the potential role of mushrooms and their bioactive compounds in preventing neuro-degeneration.