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Can eating more mushrooms prevent cognitive decline?

Written by Diane Archer

There are hundreds of studies on the benefits of different foods and vitamins for your heart, your brain, your muscles and more. More often than not, these studies recommend eating more green leafy vegetables and nuts. The latest study, out of the National University of Singapore (NUS), finds that eating more mushrooms may prevent cognitive decline in older adults.

Did you even know that mushrooms could have special health benefits? According to this new study, older adults who eat a half plate (300g) of mushrooms each week could reduce their risk of mild cognitive impairment–memory loss or forgetfulness or attention deficits–by half. The senior research fellow on the NUS study suggests this benefit may stem from the compound ergothioneine (ET), which is found in most mushrooms.

ET (ergothioneine) is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. People cannot synthesize ET on their own. But, you can find ET in a variety of mushrooms, including golden, oyster, shiitake, white button mushrooms, dried and canned mushrooms. Keep in mind that there is no evidence that taking supplements containing ergothioneine is beneficial; it is not the same as eating mushrooms, and supplements have risks.

Moreover, there is not enough evidence to say definitively that eating mushrooms forestalls cognitive decline. Still, there’s no harm in eating more mushrooms. If you don’t like mushrooms, there are other evidence-based ways to forestall cognitive decline.

Keeping mentally and physically healthy may prevent cognitive decline and dementia, according to other research. Managing high blood pressure, having a social network , exercising, keeping a healthy weight, managing hearing loss, not smoking and drinking only small amounts of alcohol all may help.

The NUS study was conducted between 2011 to 2017.

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