by Christopher Ruthe

“Eating mushrooms may reduce the risk of cognitive decline,” is the headline in leading US science journal Science News, 26.5.2021. Research by the Departments of Psychological Medicine and Biochemistry at the School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS) has found that seniors who consume more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly have 50 per cent less of having mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

And it is any variety of mushrooms — button, flats, dried and canned. How much should you eat? A portion? is 3/4 of a cup of cooked mushrooms (approx 150 grams). So mushrooms on toast at least twice a week seems the to way to go. Also, add them to your ragout (stew). 

“This correlation is surprising and encouraging. It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline,” said Professor Lei Feng, the lead author of the research. And well researched it was- a six-year study. The reason for the reduced prevalence of MCI in mushroom eaters was ascribed to a specific compound — ergothioneine — found in almost all varieties. Dr Irwin Cheah, Senior Research Fellow said “Ergothioneine is a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms.”

For those who love the science read on. Other compounds contained 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.

Forgetting where you left the keys? Missing the odd appointment? The remedy: get stuck into those mushrooms. Remember they are in the vegetable drawer in the fridge.