Some mushrooms can kill you

Others may reduce your risk of dementia, cancer cardiovascular disease, and premature death

Mushrooms contain bioactive compounds, including fiber, beta-glucans, vitamins, and the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione. In addition, mushrooms are good sources for certain vitamins (B1, 2, 12, D, and E) and minerals (calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, copper, iron, manganese, and selenium).

Laboratory studies show that mushrooms have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which appear to play a role in dementia. Researchers in Japan used data  from 13,230 participants with an average of 74 years in the Ohsaki Cohort Study to determine if mushroom consumption predicted risk of developing dementia. At baseline, food-frequency questionnaires provided data to determine mushroom consumption, which was categorized as 1) less than once per week, 2) 1-2 times per week, and 3) three of more times per week. Compared to participants in the lowest mushroom intake category, those in the highest category had a significant 19 percent lower risk of developing dementia during 5.7 years of follow-up. This result reflected controlling for a host of confounding factors including age, educational level, and intakes of four groups of foods (meat, fish, green and yellow vegetables, fruits). Eating mushrooms several times each week might reduce your risk of dementia.

Prostate cancer is the second-most prevalent type of cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer death globally. Two prospective cohort studies in Japan provided data to assess links between mushroom consumption and risk of prostate cancer. The present study included 36,499 men with an average age of 56 years at baseline in the Miyagi and Ohsaki Cohort Studies. Mushroom consumption was calculated at baseline and categorized as 1) less than once per week, 2) 1-2 times per week, and 3) three of more times per week. Compared to participants who consumed mushrooms less than once a week, those who consumed mushrooms at least three times per week had a significant 17 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer during a median follow-up of 13.2 years - but only for men over age 50. Risk of prostate cancer did not depend on intake of vegetables, fruit, meat, and dairy products. The beneficial effect of high mushroom consumption appeared regardless of the clinical stage of prostate cancer (localized vs. advanced and metastatic). Eating more mushrooms might help men reduce their risk of prostate cancer.

Might eating mushrooms promote longer life? Researchers at Pennsylvania State University used data from 15,546 participants in the third wave of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994) to find out. Mushroom consumption was calculated using 24-hour food recall during an interview. Compared to participants who reported no mushroom intake, those who reported some mushroom intake had a 14 percent lower risk of dying during an average follow-up of 19.5 years. The risk of premature death declined in a step-wise manner as the amount of mushroom consumption increased, suggesting a cause-and-effect relationship. Theoretically substituting one serving of mushrooms per day (70 grams = 2.5 ounces) for one serving of red or processed meat predicted a significant 35 percent lower risk of premature death. All of these analyses accounted for sociodemographic, major lifestyle, and other dietary factors. Eating mushrooms may be part of a healthy diet.

The same group of researchers at Penn State conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 observational studies that linked mushroom intake to risk of cancer-related mortality. Polled data from 17 studies showed a significant 34 percent lower risk of any type of cancer-related mortality for higher versus lower levels of mushroom consumption. Higher intake of mushrooms predicted a significant 35 percent higher risk of breast cancer but not for other types of cancer. More specifically, compared to zero mushroom consumption, consumption of 18 grams (2/3 of an ounce) of mushrooms per day predicted a 45 percent lower risk of total cancer mortality.

These studies suggest several reasons to eat mushrooms regularly. Besides their delectability, mushrooms may reduce your risk of dementia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.

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