For the most part, I’m a very easy-going guy. But there’s one thing that really bugs me: my allergy to mushrooms. Let me explain the reason…it’s actually based on something that’s very important to all of us as we age.
The other day, I read a study about how these tasty toadstools may work to prevent and potentially treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Researchers carried out tests in rodents and found that compounds unique to some members of the mushroom family could protect and restore brain function.
Mushrooms and Brain Health: What Research Says
The tests uncovered that 11 types of mushrooms increased the production of protein-like molecules called neuropeptides. These molecules are involved in regulating the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells in the brain, also known as the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Healthy and intact nerve cells lead to better cognition and functionality, and also lower your chances of becoming affected by a neurodegenerative condition like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The researchers even found that two specific mushrooms—Lion’s Mane and Reishi—could treat mild cognitive impairment. Both varieties are available in supplement form and are specifically marketed for their ability to boost brain health.
The problem, however, is that the majority of these tests were conducted in rodents, so more research is required to determine whether similar results occur in humans.
What This Means for Your Health
Increasing your mushroom intake is likely a good idea for your overall health and taste buds—unless, of course, you’re allergic to them like me. But relying on the belief they will protect you from Alzheimer’s and dementia may be a little far-fetched at this point. We’ll have to wait for further proof from human studies with similar results.
You should include mushrooms in your diet because of their unique nutritional content, which is not available in plant foods. They are beneficial to your health as long as you consume the edible varieties. So start adding mushrooms to your omelets, steaks, pizzas, salads, and burgers. Also, grill up some Portobello caps and toss them on a bun!
Other Tips for Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
One of the best ways to reduce your chances of neurodegenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s is a healthy diet low in processed foods and high in fruits, vegetables, and other plant sources. Currently, the most beneficial diet to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment is a Mediterranean-style diet, which you can easily add mushrooms to.
When it comes to reducing your risk of disease—whether physical or mental—it’s no surprise that diet and exercise are central players. So, stay active and eat a healthy diet rich in plant sources and fungi, and you’ll be on the right track to good health!
Fletcher, B., “Mushrooms could prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, suggests study,” NetDoctor, January 27, 2017; http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/news/a27568/mushrooms-could-prevent-dementia-and-alzheimers-disease-suggests-study/, last accessed July 5, 2017.
Hardman, R.J., “Adherence to a Mediterranean-Style Diet and Effects on Cognition in Adults: A Qualitative Evaluation and Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Prospective Trials,” Frontiers in Nutrition, July 22, 2016; http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnut.2016.00022/full, last accessed July 5, 2017.