Monday, 6 May 2019

Mushrooms and Cognitive Function - Something healthy in the English Breakfast!

Breakfast overlooking the river Thames

The more typical English Breakfast

If you happen to stay at a very nice hotel in London, the best meal to have is breakfast and after that comes tea.  The other meals are unlikely to feature much memorable English food.

Whether it is the five-star Savoy, overlooking the river Thames, or the Travelodge by the station, mushrooms will be on the menu. 

The movers and shakers actually get up early and have their power meetings over breakfast at the Savoy. This is not so expensive and a good way to experience British cuisine, served in a much more spacious environment than most restaurants.  Scotland contributes its porridge and black pudding, kippers might be on offer, but there will be mushrooms, a regular part of even the humblest hotel’s English breakfast.

Eating mushrooms more than twice a week could prevent memory and language problems occurring in the over-60s, research from Singapore suggests.
A unique antioxidant present in mushrooms could have a protective effect on the brain, the study found.
The more mushrooms people ate, the better they performed in tests of thinking and processing. The researchers point to the fact that mushrooms are one of the richest dietary sources of ergothioneine - an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to make on their own.
Mushrooms also contain other important nutrients and minerals such as vitamin D, selenium and spermidine, which protect neurons from damage. 

We examined the cross-sectional association between mushroom intake and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) using data from 663 participants aged 60 and above from the Diet and Healthy Aging (DaHA) study in Singapore. Compared with participants who consumed mushrooms less than once per week, participants who consumed mushrooms >2 portions per week had reduced odds of having MCI (odds ratio = 0.43, 95% CI 0.23–0.78, p = 0.006) and this association was independent of age, gender, education, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, physical activities, and social activities. Our cross-sectional data support the potential role of mushrooms and their bioactive compounds in delaying neurodegeneration.

Fig. 1. Functional dependence of mild cognitive impairment on mushroom consumption (treated as continuous variable): the solid curve is estimated via the smoothing spline approach. Adjusted for age, gender, education, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, physical activities, social activities.

Using data from the Diet and Healthy Aging Study in Singapore, we found that mushroom consumption was associated with reduced odds of having MCI. The reduction was significant for participants who consumed greater than 2 portions of mushrooms per week

The observed correlation between mushrooms and reduced odds of MCI in our study sample is biologically plausible. Certain components in mushrooms, such as hericenones, erinacines, scabronines and dictyophorines may promote the synthesis of nerve growth factors. Bioactive compounds in mushrooms may also protect brain from neurodegeneration by inhibiting production of amyloid- and phosphorylated tau, and acetylcholinesterase. Mushrooms are also one of the richest dietary sources of ergothioneine (ET). ET, a thione-derivative of histidine is an unique putative antioxidant and cytoprotective compound. While humans are unable to synthesize ET, it can be readily absorbed from diet (main source is mushrooms) and actively accumulated in the body and the brain via a specific transporter, OCTN1. Our recent study in elderly Singaporeans revealed that plasma levels of ET in participants with MCI were significantly lower than age-matched healthy individuals, leading us to believe that a deficiency in ET may be a risk factor for neurodegeneration, and increase ET intake through mushroom consumption might possibly promote cognitive health.

In summary, using community-based data in Singapore, we found that mushroom consumption was associated with reduced odds of MCI. Based on current evidence, we propose that mushroom consumption could be a potential preventive measure to slow cognitive decline and neurodegeneration in aging.


Studying all possible forms of cognitive impairment is interesting if you want to understand autism. 

Mushroom would appear to have a similar scale of potential benefit in MCI (mild cognitive impairment) to cocoa flavanols, which have been commercialized as a therapy by Mars. 

We did see previously how one specific type of mushroom (Lion’s Mane) has a particular effect of raising levels of NGF (nerve growth factor).  Oyster mushrooms produce Lovastatin.

Mushroom contain spermidine and so will improve autophagy, the intracellular garbage collection service that is impaired in many neurological conditions.

Eat mushrooms.


  1. some mushrooms are immunostimulant...perhaps not a good idea if you have autoimune conditions I suppose..

    1. There are many types of mushrooms and some are immunosuppressing or immunostimulative. The Singaporean study does suggest two portions a week of typical mushrooms protects against dementia. We buy fresh mushrooms every week, they have not triggered asthma.

      I think you can put mushrooms alongside beetroot, berries and herbs like rosemary, oregano sage etc as foods that have an additional benefit to you.

  2. Don't forget, some mushrooms also have a relatively high level of trehalose as well.

    1. And there's this:
      "Eating white button mushrooms can create subtle shifts in the microbial community in the gut, which could improve the regulation of glucose in the liver"

  3. Thanks Peter! I love, love mushrooms! I went out and bought several packages of freshmushrooms and sauteed them in butter and thyme, and then ate them with a great ribeye steak.


    "If that wasn’t good enough, research has also shown that white button mushroom lectin appears to have a potent anti-cancer effect against cells known to induce colon cancer, actually causing the early mutated cells that are beginning to loose their healthy architecture (undifferentiated) to slowly go back to normal (re-differentiate)."

  5. OK last one.
    "Here we survey the chemistry of such health-promoting (mushroom)polysaccharides and their reported antiobesity and antidiabetic properties as well as selected anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, and antiviral effects that demonstrate their multiple health-promoting potential.

  6. Thank you for this information. Very much appreciated.

  7. Thank you for this great site. I'm trying to absorb as much information as I can. Keep it up!

    Have you seen this publication:

    One of the authors is on your Dean's list. Do you think it might be reliable?

    1. Michalis, I would say based on this study that Iranian saffron looks a better choice than Ritalin. It had the same beneficial effect, with half the level of side effects. The issue with Saffron would be to have the same variety and potency as used in the trial.

      This author has made so many studies, I expect he is more proficient than many Western researchers. He is as likely to be reliable as Western researchers.

  8. Just want to share this, not just with those of us celebrating Mother's Day this weekend, but all the wonderful parents here. "This Mother's Day, write a letter to your kids, no matter how old they are. Trust me. - The Washington Post"

  9. Off-topic: I’ve found an interesting paper on bumetanide use in mouse model of Dravet syndrome (catastrophic developmental and epileptic encephalopathy associated with SCN1A mutations):

    What they found is that GABAergic signaling remains immature in their Dravet syndrome models and Bumetanide treatment resulted in a delay in SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy) in the affected mice compared to controls.

    Their conclusion is that “targeting the polarity of GABAergic signaling in brain may be an effective therapeutic strategy to reduce SUDEP risk in Ds.”

    How about targeting premature mortality in severe autism with bumetanide?

    1. It is interesting because the research showed while bumetanide did not halt the seizures it did reduce/delay death from them. I think in human trials they set the bar too high and expect a total solution.

      Interestingly they did not find an NKCC1/KCC2 dysfunction and again they wonder if the 1% of bumetanide the crosses the BBB is really enough to block NKCC1 in the brain. It has been proposed that blocking NKCC1 outside the BBB might have an indirect effect on NKCC1 inside the brain.

  10. Hi Peter,
    What is your take on Fecal Transplant.Arizona State University conducted a research and found 50% reduction in autism symptoms

    1. SB, the whole area of gut bacteria affecting brain function is just emerging and it is clear that there will be no one-size-fits-all solution. We saw that the benefit of the ketogenic diet in epilepsy is via changes in gut microbiota and nothing to do with ketones themselves. We also saw that taking probiotic bacteria orally often has no effect on colonizing the gut, they just pass straight through.

      Fecal transplantation is the other method and it does produce a long term effect in responders. This means that the donor bacteria have colonized the gut of the recipient.

      I would image that only specific sub-groups within autism would respond to the addition of “mixed donor bacteria”. Adding specific bacteria would allow a targeted therapy. I think people with autism, a very restricted diet and serious GI issues would be the most likely to benefit from the current type of fecal transplantion.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I'm not sure the gut microbiota change in KD is the whole story. It will be interesting to hear what Zaronowska has to say She will be speaking at Thinking Autism conference on Sunday 19 May

  12. On the other hand have you seen this one "epilepsy who attained temporary seizure freedom during antibiotic treatment. The effect on seizure frequency waned within 2 weeks after cessation of antibiotic treatment. We hypothesized that antibiotic treatments may have a short-term effect, through gut microbiota disruption, on gut-brain interactions and ultimately seizure frequency. This observed impact of antibiotics on seizure frequency hints at a possible role of the gut microbiota in epilepsy and its manifestations..."

  13. Ketones and Autism Part 1 - Ketones, Epilepsy, GABA and Gut Bacteria


Post a comment