Want to Stay Sharp As You Age? Eat This Common Vegetable

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A study published Wednesday in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has found that regular consumption of even small portions of a common, versatile, inexpensive vegetable may result in a 50% reduction in the chances of developing MCI, or mild cognitive impairment.

MCI is recognized as the stage between the normal cognitive deterioration that comes with aging and the more serious decline caused by Alzheimer’s Disease — a condition predicted to soar by as much as 47% in some states by 2025 — and other forms of dementia.

The miracle vegetable? Mushrooms.

A team from the Department of Psychological Medicine and Department of Biochemistry at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine tracked more than 600 Chinese senior citizens living in Singapore over a six-year period, ensuring that they consumed two 150-gram (three-quarter-cup) portions of cooked mushrooms weekly. The study used fresh shiitake, oyster, golden, and white button mushrooms and dried and canned mushrooms of various kinds, though the researchers believe that other varieties might have similar beneficial effects.

The team conducted extensive interviews with and tests on the subjects of the study to track any potential memory loss as well as declines in such other cognitive functions as language, attention, and visuospatial abilities. The correlation between mushroom consumption and cognitive health, said one of the researchers, was “surprising and encouraging.”

The effect of the mushrooms, the scientists believe, is likely due to an antioxidant compound called ergothioneine (ET), though other bioactive ingredients in the fungi might also be relevant. Antioxidants are the active ingredients in various fruits and vegetables that are said to give them “superfood” status.