NMU 124 – Mushrooms and Memory
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 124 (March 27, 2019)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Mushrooms Help Prevent Memory Loss
Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s disease (March 2019)
With respect to preventing memory loss over our lifetime, published studies have shown us that there are many proactive things we can do to protect our brain and help prevent memory loss from occurring as we age. A shortlist includes:
- Keep your blood cholesterol in the ideal range
- Maintain normal blood pressure
- Exercise regularly
- Remain at healthy body weight, helping to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Avoid or limit alcohol consumption
- Don’t smoke
- Use your brain to keep learning new tasks throughout your lifetime
- Maintain strong and positive social connections and interactions
- Maintain optimal blood levels of vitamin D (above 75 nmol/L or 30 ng/ml)
- Drink 3-5 cups of green tea daily.
However, from a biochemical standpoint, it’s important to also understand that after age 55 the brain has trouble accessing adequate choline to maintain optimal amounts of the memory chemical “acetylcholine.” In terms of brain chemistry, the first step in memory loss is a decline in brain synthesis of acetylcholine. After age 55 the transport system that carries choline from the blood across the blood-brain-barrier becomes sluggish, and thus less choline enters the brain. This can be dealt with, however, by taking a supplement each day after age 55 that helps the brain access more choline, and other nutrients were shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain. A supplement formula of this type would include natural agents such as CDP-choline, Phosphatidylserine, Huperzine A, and Bacopa monnieri. Some studies suggest that B-vitamin and antioxidant supplements (vitamin C, vitamin E) during adult life may also help slow brain aging and preserve memory, as well as the use of melatonin one hour before bedtime (after age 40) – 1-3 mg should be adequate in this regard.
Along the lines of nutritional support for the brain, in the March 2019 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers published data from the Diet and Healthy Aging study in Singapore, which followed 663 participants, who were 60 years and older, for a 6-year period. This study showed that compared to participants who consumed mushrooms less than once per week, participants who consumed mushrooms >2 portions per week had a 57% reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is the first step in memory loss and the precursor to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease in many cases. In this study, the portion size was defined as three-quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms. Two portions would be equivalent to approximately half a plate of mushrooms.
Very compelling is the fact that the association with mushroom intake and decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment in this study was independent of age, gender, education, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, physical activities, and social activities. The researchers conclude, “Our cross-sectional data support the potential role of mushrooms and their bioactive compounds in delaying neurodegeneration” – degeneration of the brain leading to memory loss and other problems.
The types of mushrooms consumed in the study included: golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms. Over the years many medicinal mushrooms have been investigated for their medicinal properties and their individual medicinal constituents. There is good evidence that medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake, reishi, cordyceps, maitake and other mushrooms can modulate the body’s immune system. But more recent studies have shown that medicinal mushrooms also contain ingredients that induce synthesis of brain nerve growth factors, prevent the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque (a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s disease). Some of these brain supporting ingredients that are unique to medicinal mushrooms are listed in the text below, with Ergothioneine (ET) being emerging as a very important one: Ergothioneine (ET) as well as certain hericenones, erinacines, scabronines, and dictyophorines.
In fact, an earlier study by the team on elderly Singaporeans revealed that plasma levels of ET in participants with MCI were significantly lower than age-matched healthy individuals. The work, which was published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications in 2016, led to the belief that a deficiency in ET may be a risk factor for neurodegeneration, and increasing ET intake through mushroom consumption might possibly promote cognitive health (including memory).
So, in conclusion, research suggests that including 3 or more servings of medicinal mushrooms to your weekly fare may be one other way you can support your brain health over your lifetime and help prevent memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease as you age. I personally include a 14-mushroom powdered blend into my wellness plan, at least 3x per week.
I’ve included the scientific reference for this study in the text below.
Lei Feng, Irwin Kee-Mun Cheah, Maisie Mei-Xi Ng, Jialiang Li, Sue Mei Chan, Su Lin Lim, Rathi Mahendran, Ee-Heok Kua, Barry Halliwell. The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2019. 10.3233/JAD-180959
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