Could mushrooms be the key to healthy aging after you turn 60? New research suggests that just might be the case.
A March 2019 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease analyzed 600 Chinese adults over 60 in Singapore for six years. Researchers found that seniors who eat more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly might have 50 percent reduced odds of mild cognitive impairment. For the purposes of this study, a "standard portion" is defined as 3/4 cup of cooked mushrooms, with an average weight of around 150 g. So two portions might take up about half the space on a typical dinner plate — and that's it.
"This correlation is surprising and encouraging," said lead author Lei Feng, PhD, in a press release. "It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline."
As you may be aware, mild cognitive decline usually refers to a stage between the cognitive decline associated with normal aging and the more serious decline linked with conditions like dementia. Researchers think that the reduced risk of mild cognitive decline in mushroom fans may have something to do with a specific compound found in almost all varieties of mushrooms — ergothioneine, which is a unique anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
It's worth mentioning the specific mushrooms referenced in the study were some of the most commonly consumed mushrooms in Singapore, including: golden, oyster, shiitake, white button, and then dried and canned mushrooms. However, researchers say it's likely that even some mushrooms not accounted for in the study would still have those similar beneficial effects.
Of course, mushrooms have long been praised for their many other health benefits. Previous research has shown that mushrooms have great nutritional value due to being high in protein, fiber, and a wide range of vitamins — including B1, B2, B12, C, D, and E. Furthermore, mushrooms can act as immune system enhancers and cholesterol-lowering agents.
This latest study is yet another reason to love mushrooms!