Mushrooms contain compounds that boost brain nerves, increase gray matter, and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s the conclusion of an exhaustive review of studies examining the effects of mushrooms on brain health. Scientists found that eating the fungi have a “preventive function against the development of Alzheimer’s disease.”
The researchers say mushrooms contain antioxidant chemicals that protect against the inflammation that leads to cognitive decline.
Compounds in mushrooms increase gray matter by boosting production of a chemical called nerve growth factor. Nerve growth factor increases the lifespan of brain cells while helping them function better.
Researchers cited a small Japanese pilot study as an illustration of the powerful cognitive benefits mushrooms can have on Alzheimer’s patients. The study looked at seven dementia sufferers who ranged in age from 50 to 80. For six months, the patients ate 5 grams of dried lion’s mane mushrooms a day.
All patients were evaluated before and after the treatment period for their Functional Independence Measure (FIM). This is a barometer of physical and mental capabilities. It assesses how well a person performs ordinary functions like eating, dressing, walking, communicating, remembering, and learning.
Six of the seven showed dramatic improvement. All seven improved their FIM scores.
A Chinese study showed that rats eating a mushroom extract displayed superior memory of mazes. And the mushroom diet caused increased neurite growth. This is a marker of brain health. The rats also experienced a 134% increase in CREB protein, a substance that is vital to brain cell health.
A human study published in the journal Preventive Nutrition and Food Science found that consuming reishi mushrooms improves cognitive function and learning.
Mushrooms: The New Super Food
Professor Vikineswary Sabaratnam of Malaya University in Kuala Lumpur was one of the authors of the review. He said his research found “mushrooms contain diverse yet exclusive bioactive compounds” which “improve brain function.”
In addition to brain benefits, mushrooms:
- Detoxify your body. Mushrooms are high in niacin, also known as vitamin B3. This nutrient helps your body dispose of toxins.
- Fight cancer. In a Japanese animal study, mice with sarcoma had complete tumor regression when fed a mushroom supplement.
- Lower blood pressure. Mushrooms are loaded with potassium, which helps prevent high blood pressure.
Mushrooms also contain selenium, iron, and copper. All three minerals are vital for optimal health.[4
3 Healthiest Mushroom Varieties
All mushrooms have health benefits. But three varieties have particularly high concentrations of bioactive compounds:
Shitake. They protect your liver and relieve stomach ailments. They have shown promise against stomach cancer. Shitakes also have antiviral and antibacterial properties. They are used against the common cold in traditional Asian medicine.
Reishi. Asian cultures call it the “Mushroom of Immortality.” They promote prostate health, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure levels, and ease arthritis pain.
Himematsutake. This is a relative of the common white button mushroom. They help decrease insulin resistance in diabetics. They have shown promising anticancer properties as well.
Shitake mushrooms are widely available at supermarkets. You can find reishi and himematsutake mushrooms at Asian markets.
Add mushrooms to your diet to protect your brain—and improve your overall health and wellness.
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