Above the age of 65, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia doubles roughly every 5 years. It is estimated that dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80. While ageing is a normal process that you can’t stop, there is still a lot of things you can do to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. And the sooner you start implementing healthy habits to protect your brain, the better.
A team of researchers have found that seniors who ate more than two standard portions of a cheap and tasty food weekly could help cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s in half. This food is so common, you probably have some in your fridge right now. It’s also really good for your immune system.
How Much Should I Eat?
If you guessed mushrooms, than you’re absolutely correct. The study, which was published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, tracked the mushroom consumption and brain health of 600 senior citizens living in Singapore. At the end of the six-year long study, the results showed that individuals who ate a portion of mushrooms twice a week slashed their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by a staggering 50 percent!
“This correlation is surprising and encouraging. It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline,” said Assistant Professor Lei Feng, who is from the NUS Department of Psychological Medicine, and the lead author of this work.
In the study, a portion was defined as three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of around 150 grams. Two portions would be equivalent to approximately half a plate. While the portion sizes act as a guideline, it was shown that even one small portion of mushrooms a week may still be beneficial to reduce chances of cognitive impairment.
Unique Mushroom Compound Doubles as Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
Six commonly consumed mushrooms were referenced in the study. They were golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms. But that doesn’t mean you’re only limited to these types. In fact, it is likely that other mushrooms not referenced in the study would also offer the same brain protective benefits.
Experts believe mushrooms to be effective in protecting the brain because of a specific compound found in almost all varieties. It’s a natural inflammatory fighting antioxidant called ergothioneine (ET).
“We’re very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET),” said Dr Irwin Cheah, Senior Research Fellow at the NUS Department of Biochemistry. “ET is a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to synthesize on their own. But it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms.”
Mushrooms also contain other compounds such as hericenones, erinacines, scabronines and dictyophorines, which can help promote the synthesis of nerve growth factors. In addition, bioactive compounds in mushrooms can also protect the brain from neurodegeneration by stopping production of beta amyloid and phosphorylated tau, and acetylcholinesterase.
And that’s why you should consider adding this delicious food in your meals if it’s not already part of your diet. And if brain protection isn’t enough to convince you, just remember that mushrooms can also help improve blood sugar levels and even fight cancer.