This short article was copied from Business Insider's website:

It's common knowledge that mushrooms are packed with a nutritional punch — but did you know that this everyday food item may be able to lower the risk of cognitive decline in older people too?

Research from the National University of Singapore (NUS) suggests seniors who eat more than two standard portions of mushrooms — equivalent to 300g or half a plate — per week may have 50% reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment.

This could be because of the presence of a specific compound called ergothioneine found in almost all mushroom varieties, according to Dr. Irwin Cheah, a senior research fellow from NUS Biochemistry. 

mushroom mushrooms
Ergothioneine found in almost all mushroom varieties. 

Dr. Cheah said: "ET (ergothioneine) is a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which humans are unable to synthesize on their own. But it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms."

The NUS study stated that seniors with mild cognitive impairment display subtle symptoms of memory loss or forgetfulness, as well as a deficit in other cognitive functions such as language, attention, and visuospatial abilities.

The study referenced six commonly consumed mushrooms — namely golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms.

600 Chinese seniors living in Singapore and over the age of 60 were assessed through interviews and tests which took into account demographic information, medical history, psychological factors, and dietary habits, as well as their blood pressure, weight, height, handgrip, and walking speed.

The participants then took a two-hour standard neuropsychological assessment, along with a dementia rating.

According to the more recent study, earlier NUS research — also involving Dr Cheah — found that a deficiency in the ergothioneine compound could be a risk factor for neurodegeneration diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

Other varieties of mushrooms were also referenced in the study, including golden, shiitake, dried and white button mushrooms. 

It also found certain hericenones, erinacines, scabronines and dictyophorines contained within mushrooms may promote the synthesis of nerve growth factors, while bioactive compounds inhibit the production of beta amyloid and phosphorylated tau, and acetylcholinesterase, which protects the brain from neurodegeneration.

To form stronger conclusions, the research team may look into performing a randomized controlled trial in the future with the pure compound of ergothioneine and other plant-based ingredients.