I’ve been discussing fruits and vegetables that are good for cognitive health, but how about fungi? Are mushrooms good for your brain?
Yes! The research on mushrooms impact on dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive impairment is convincing.
Are Mushrooms Good for Your Brain Study 1: Can Mushrooms Slow Cognitive Decline?
In this October 2008 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research, researchers split 30 cognitive-impaired adults aged 50 to 80 into two groups.
For 16 weeks, one group took four tablets containing 250 mg of powdered lion’s mane (Yamabushitake) mushrooms three times daily. The other group took fake placebo tablets.
Measuring their cognitive abilities with a dementia scale, the researchers found:
At weeks 8, 12, and 16, the mushroom group scored higher than the placebo group on cognitive tests. The scores for 10 of them averaged 71.4% higher – a remarkable difference!
Just as notably, when measured four weeks after the trial concluded, the mushroom group’s cognitive scores had declined. Based on these findings, it appears that one answer to the question “Are mushrooms good for your brain?” is, “With uninterrupted daily consumption, they’re great for cognitive health!”
Are Mushrooms Good for Your Brain Study 2: Can Mushroom Help Prevent Dementia?
Researchers led by Shu Zhang of Japan’s Tohoku University School of Public Health gathered data from more than 13,000 participants in the Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study.
They categorized the participants into three groups according to the frequency of their mushroom consumption:
- Less than once weekly
- Once or twice weekly
- Three or more times weekly
- Eating mushrooms once and twice a week led to a 20-percent lower rate of dementia when compared to eating less than once weekly.
- Eating them three or more times weekly reduced the dementia rate by 37% compared to eating them less than once weekly.
The Tohoku researchers regarded their findings as a significant dose-response. As mushroom consumption increased, the risk of developing age-related dementia decreased.
In the researchers’ words, habitual mushroom intake had a significant association “with lower risk of incident dementia.”
Are Mushrooms Good for Your Brain Study 3: Can Mushrooms Help Prevent MCI?
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) occurs between normal cognitive function and early memory loss. Many older adults with MCI can remain relatively stable for years before sliding into dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In a cross-sectional study from the National University of Singapore, Assistant Professor Lei Feng’s research team examined the connection between eating mushrooms and developing MCI.
They analyzed data collected from 663 adults over 60 during the 2011-2017 Diet and Healthy Aging (DaHA) study.
The DaHa participants completed questionnaires about their consumption of Singapore’s most popular mushroom varieties, including:
- white button
dried and canned button mushrooms.
They reported how many ¾-cup (150g) portions of cooked mushrooms they ate each week.
Their accumulated answers indicated that more than two weekly portions led to a 57-percent lower risk of MCI!
Given the evidence from this and other studies, the Singapore team concluded that mushrooms deserve consideration as a “potential preventative measure to slow cognitive decline and neurodegeneration in aging.”
Are Mushrooms Good for Your Brain?
The balance of evidence from these three studies points to a clear connection between eating mushrooms and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
Fruits, vegetables, and fungi are all good for cognitive health, so make a habit of including mushrooms as a regular ingredient of your brain-healthy plant-based diet!