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Eat this food twice a week to keep your brain healthy, scientists say

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By: Najja Parker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As you age, cognitive health is key. According to a new report, there are foods that can keep your brain in tiptop shape at any age.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine recently completed a study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, to determine the association between mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and mushrooms. 

MCI is defined as “the stage between the cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia,” the authors said in a statement. People with MCI may exhibit memory loss and forgetfulness or have trouble with their language, attention and visual perception abilities. 

For the assessment, the team examined 600 Chinese adults, over the age of 60, for six years. They tracked their diets, conducted interviews and administered standard neuropsychological tests, which measures a person’s cognitive abilities.

After analyzing the results, they found eating mushrooms proved to be beneficial. In fact, those who consume more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have a 50 percent reduced chance of having MCI. A portion was defined as three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms.

“This correlation is surprising and encouraging. It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline,” co-author Feng Lei said.

They noted six mushrooms in the study: golden, oyster, shiitake, white button, dried and canned mushrooms. However, they said other types may also have positive effects.

The scientists believe there is a specific compound in all mushroom varieties that reduce the prevalence of MCI. 

“We’re very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET),” he said. “ET 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 analysts said other compounds in mushrooms may also be advantageous. 

The team now plans to test the effects of the pure compound of ET and other plant-based ingredients. They hope to identify other foods that could be linked with healthy brain aging and reduced risk of age-related conditions. 

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