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Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediary stage between normal cognitive functioning and dementia and may be treatable with diet and lifestyle interventions. Mushrooms contain a number of bioactive compounds, such as hericenones and erinacines, that increase nerve growth factor production and ergothione, an antioxidant and cytoprotective compound. One group of researchers examined the relationship between mushroom consumption and mild cognitive impairment in older adults.

Previous research has shown that mushroom intake improved cognitive performance among Norwegian participants (ages 70 to 74 years). Another epidemiological study in Japanese participants (ages 65 years and older) found that mushroom consumption of at least three times per week or more was associated with a 19 percent reduced risk of dementia. However, the effect of mushroom consumption on the risk of mild cognitive impairment is unknown.

The authors reviewed data from over 600 participants without dementia (ages 60 years and older) from a study in Singapore aiming to identify dietary factors that are associated with healthy aging. Participants provided data regarding demographics, lifestyle, diet, health history, cognitive function, and psychological well being, among others. The researchers interviewed participants to assess their mushroom intake and measured participants’ cognitive function using a standardized questionnaire.

Participants who consumed greater than two servings of mushrooms per week (1.5 cups of cooked mushrooms, about 300 grams) were 43 percent less likely to have mild cognitive impairment than those who consumed mushrooms less than once per week. This association was independent of age, sex, education, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, physical activities, and social activities. Participants with mild cognitive impairment were more likely to have hypertension and diabetes and were less active in social activities.

The results of this cross-sectional study support the potential of mushroom consumption in delaying the development of cognitive decline. The authors noted that a strength of their study was their accounting of lifestyle and health factors.

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