A Surprising Way to Protect Against Cognitive Decline: Eat Mushrooms

A recent article in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease demonstrated that certain varieties of mushrooms can significantly reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Mild cognitive impairment shares some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, for example difficulty with memory, language and spatial orientation, but in a way that is less debilitating and which does not preclude people from continuing to live an independent and full life.

The researchers focused on 4 particular types of mushrooms:

  1. Golden mushrooms
  2. Oyster mushrooms
  3. Shiitake mushrooms
  4. White button mushrooms

One portion of mushrooms was defined to be three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms, which was approximately 150 g.

In order to gauge participants’ cognitive abilities, the researchers used standard neuropsychological tests, comparing participants of the same age, educational backgrounds and eating habits. They then added two portions of mushrooms to half of the participants each week.

The team also interviewed and measured the physical and psychological functioning of the participants throughout the study, taking into account all relevant demographic and medical information. Blood pressure, weight, height, strength, and walking speed were all measured. Anxiety and depression were also taken into account. By the time the study started, the research team had created a file representing each participant’s neuropsychological health and their rating on a standard dementia scale.

The results of this study were quite surprising. Analysis showed that eating just two portions of cooked mushrooms per week led to a 50% reduction in the risk of MCI. The researchers themselves were shocked that a single ingredient could have such a dramatic effect on cognitive decline.

Since MCI is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, the implications of this discovery are extremely important. However, the reason for the reduction in MCI risk is not yet clearly understood. One of the lead authors, Dr. Irwin Cheah noted that the compound ergothioneine is both an antioxidant and inflammatory which humans cannot synthesize on their own. However it can be obtained from dietary sources, and in particular, from mushrooms.

Dr. Cheah pointed out that this compound might be partially responsible for the decline in the risk of MCI, since previous research, published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, showed that this compound can reduce the risk of MCI. However, he also pointed out that mushrooms contain a variety of other ingredients that may play a fundamental role in brain health, though further research would be required to prove this hypothesis.

Whatever the mechanism, the study makes it clear that adding any of the mushrooms mentioned above to our diet a few times a week can significantly reduce our risk of developing MCI.

At Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, we are experts in handling all levels of cognitive impairment, from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

We have created a unique environment and care program specifically designed to address the needs of this population. Our Alzheimer’s Unit is situated in a separate, secure wing to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents. It offers a structured daily routine, mind-stimulating activities, excellent social interaction, with optimal patient independence in a calm and soothing atmosphere.

Part of our success is due to the care we take with our residents’ nutrition. Our world-class culinary team offers a tempting variety of meal selections that are produced under the supervision of a registered dietitian. The result: well-balanced, health-conscious meals that are sure to please even the most discerning palate. And, of course, special dietary needs are gladly accommodated.

Read our reviews on caring.com, wellness.com, and senioradvisor.com to hear what our residents and their families have to say.

Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 609-588-5800 or by clicking here.

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