SINGAPORE March 2019
 
Mushroom might reduce risk of cognitive impairment for the Aged
 
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has found that older people who consume more than 2 standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have 50% reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
A portion was defined as 3 quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of around 150g. Two portions would be equivalent to approximately half a plate. While the portion sizes act as a guideline, it was shown that even 1 small portion of mushrooms a week may still be beneficial to reduce chances of MCI.
“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 from the NUS Department of Psychological Medicine.
The 6-year study, which was conducted from 2011 to 2017, collected data from more than 600 Chinese seniors over the age of 60 living in Singapore. The research was carried out with the support from the Life Sciences Institute and the Mind Science Centre at NUS, as well as the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council.
MCI is typically viewed as the stage between the cognitive decline of normal ageing and the more serious decline of dementia. Seniors afflicted with MCI often display some form of memory loss or forgetfulness and may also show deficit on other cognitive function such as language, attention and visuospatial abilities. However, the changes can be subtle, as they do not experience disabling cognitive deficits that affect everyday life activities, which is characteristic of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Six commonly consumed mushrooms in Singapore were used in the study and they include golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms. However, it is likely that other mushrooms not referenced will also have 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 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, with mushrooms being one of the main sources.”
The research findings led to the belief that a deficiency in ET may be a risk factor for neurodegeneration, and increasing ET intake through mushroom consumption might possibly promote cognitive health. Other compounds within mushrooms may also be advantageous for decreasing the risk of cognitive decline. Certain hericenones, erinacines, scabronines and dictyophorines may promote the synthesis of nerve growth factors. Bioactive compounds in mushrooms may also protect the brain from neurodegeneration by inhibiting production of beta amyloid and phosphorylated tau, and acetylcholinesterase.
 
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