Are mushrooms the anti-Alzheimer’s superfood?

Scientists think so!

The bioactive compounds found in mushrooms could play a role in reducing or delaying the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, a new study claims

Mushrooms could be the food that protects you from Alzheimer’s disease, a new study claims.

Scientists have found that mushrooms contain contain bioactive compounds that could play a role in reducing or delaying the development of neurodegeneration.

It is estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and, worldwide, 42 million cases are expected by 2020.

Despite the advancement of medication, the management of these diseases has remained largely ineffective.

But new research shows that properties in certain edible and medicinal mushrooms could enhance nerve growth in the brain and protect against causes of age-related diseases.

Previous evidence has proven that mushrooms exhibit antioxidant, antitumor, antivirus, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-diabetic activities.

Mushrooms with anti-inflammatory properties may be used as functional foods to combating high blood pressure which contributes to many age-related chronic diseases including neurodegenerative diseases, according to researchers.

The study, conducted at the University of Malaysia, looked at the scientific information available on mushrooms with regards to their anti-dementia active compounds and/or pharmacological test results.

Scientists selected 11 different types of edible and medicinal mushrooms and studied their effects on mice and rat brains.

They found that each mushroom increased production of the nerve growth factor (NGF) – a molecule primarily involved in regulating growth, maintenance, proliferation and survival of certain nerve cells in the brains.

In turn, this promoted in rats peripheral nerve regeneration – the network of motor and sensory nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord.

Because the mushrooms stimulate NGF production, this could protect neurons from chemical substances that cause cell death, the researchers say.

Specific mushrooms were also found to have particular brain health benefits.

Cordyceps, considered to be a medicinal mushroom in classical Asian pharmacology, prevented neuronal cell death and memory loss due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

The Lion’s Mane mushroom, a rare edible used for culinary and medicinal purposes in China and Japan, was shown to have positive effects on mild cognitive impairment.

And the Reishi mushroom, long considered to be a superior herbal remedy, showed evidence of improving cognitive abilities and increased longevity.

Nevertheless, scientists say the effects of mushrooms on brain and cognition health are in their early stages of research compared with plant and herbal medicine, which is already widely explored and relatively more advanced.

Such past research has focused on two herbs, periwinkle and ginseng, both of which have been proven to boost cognitive function.

Scientists have also discovered that one of the active essential oils that gives rosemary its favorable scent improves speed and accuracy when performing certain mental tasks.

Dr Sampath Parthasarathy, editor-in-chief of Journal of Medicinal Food where the study appeared, said: ‘In contrast to the body of literature on food ingredients that may benefit cardiometabolic diseases and cancer, very few studies have focused on food that may benefit neurodegenerative diseases.

‘The current study might stimulate the identification of more food materials that are neuroprotective.’

The researchers concluded that, because of the rising number of those with dementia and other related diseases, it is ‘vital’ to keep exploring foods that contain health-giving additives and that have medicinal benefit.

Researched and written by Mary Kekatos for The Daily Mail, January 24, 2017.

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