Researchers from Penn State have collated intriguing observations about the potential for mushrooms to combat aging and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. (Download the full paper here.)

The active compound under investigation is ergothioneine, or “Ergo,” an antioxidant. Ergo is only created by fungi, and we can only get it through our diets. Mushrooms are the best dietary source.

Key points:

  • A deficiency in Ergo may predispose people to mild cognitive impairment and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases.
  • In one study, it was observed that people with Parkinson’s disease had significantly
    lower blood Ergo levels than individuals of the same age without Parkinson’s, suggesting that a deficiency in Ergo level may predispose people to Parkinson’s.
  • There is a positive association between amounts of Ergo in the diet and life expectancy.
  • Ergo in the food chain depends on a healthy fungal population in agricultural soils.
  • Some modern agricultural cultivation practices have depleted the soil fungal populations, which may reduce the Ergo content of food crops for human and animals.
  • The American diet may be lacking in sufficient Ergo to adequately protect against the chronic degenerative diseases of aging, especially neurodegenerative diseases like cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
  • The best way to increase your Ergo consumption is to eat 100 g of fresh button mushrooms a day or 25 g of specialty mushrooms, like shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms a day.

Read the full paper here.

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