Some people love them, others would rather pass on them, but mushrooms are garnering a fair amount of attention in the health world at the moment. A recent study by the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that eating more than two portions of mushrooms a week can seriously improve your brain functions. The study focused on a group of 600 Chinese seniors (over the age of 60) and concluded that those who ate more mushrooms were 50% more likely to fend off mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
MCI slots in between standard cognitive decline due to ageing and the faster decline associated with dementia. Forgetfulness, memory loss and a shorter attention span are some of the most common symptoms, however those with MCI are perfectly able to go about their day-to-day lives.
So, how do mushrooms help dramatically lower your chances of developing MCI? While the study included a range of different mushrooms, including olden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, scientists honed in on one particular element. ‘We’re very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET),’ said Dr Irwin Cheah, Senior Research Fellow at the NUS Department of 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.’
Brain enhancement isn’t the only health benefit mushrooms can offer. ‘They are a great source of protein, B vitamins, fibre and minerals. They also contain polysaccharides called alpha and beta glucans which act to support the immune system,’ says Shabir, who included Maitake and Shitake mushroom extracts in Daily Immunity by VH for this very reason.
If you’re keen to up your portion to reap the cognitive and antioxidant benefits, you will need to eat at least two portions a week. The researchers at NUS measured a portion as three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms, weighing around 150grams. For those who cannot stand the taste, it’s worth looking into Pukka Herbs Mushroom Gold.
This isn’t the last you’ve heard of the popular fungus. With such impressive results from the study, researchers at NUS are going to explore the relationship between ET and other natural ingredients, including L-theanine and catechins found in tea leaves to see if there are more brain boosting powers to be found. Watch this space…