Mushrooms reduce the odds of MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment)

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) characterizes the initial stage of cognitive impairment - it is essentially the phase between good cognitive functioning and the expected cognitive aging. MCI is used to identify patients at a high risk of dementia. 

Common symptoms of mild cognitive impairment include:
- Forgetfulness
- Loss of chain of thought
- Difficulty in recalling names or events

These symptoms can be identified by the individual experiencing them or by their colleagues and loved ones. MCI does not pose as many challenges as Alzheimer's or dementia, as people with MCI can still go about their activities of daily living (ADL) without disruption or difficulty.

If you or anyone you know experiences any of these symptoms, visit a nearby clinic.

Is MCI Related to Alzheimer's or Dementia?

Different definitions of MCI have evolved over the years; initially, MCI was considered to be the preliminary stage of Alzheimer's disease (AD), as its diagnostic features extended to include impaired memory and a decline in judgment and reasoning. There was a thin line distinguishing between MCI and Alzheimer's until recently.

Though MCI and Alzheimer's have similarities in their causes and risk factors, including genetics and age, it is not a certainty that all cases of MCI are indicators for Alzheimer's. 

According to recent research, about 20% of the older adult population with mild cognitive impairment develop Alzheimer's disease. Hence, not all cases of Alzheimer's develop from MCI, and not all MCI cases progress to Alzheimer's. Nonetheless, the prognosis of MCI is good, such that people experiencing it may maintain the symptoms or even become better.

How Can Functional Mushrooms Help Reduce Cognitive Impairment?

Mushrooms are beneficial for many conditions, one of those being cognitive decline.

Mushrooms are rich in fiber and antioxidants, which help protect the brain cells from degeneration. There are different types and classes of mushrooms, but according to research conducted by the National University of Singapore, the particular element which may be responsible for the antioxidant activity in mushrooms is ergothioneine (ET).

Ergothioneine is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that the body cannot synthesize on its own, hence its need from external food sources. 

The research showed that ET's plasma concentration in people without MCI was higher than that of those who had MCI (all subjects were in the same age bracket).  

Basically, the study showed that the risk of developing MCI in people who consumed more than 2 servings of mushrooms per week was approximately 50% less than people who did not.

In addition, mushrooms are also rich in Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and other compounds that help prevent neuron damage and promote improved cognitive functioning. 

Therefore, people who include mushrooms in their diet are less likely to develop cognitive impairment.

What Do Mushrooms Do To Support The Brain?

Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disease that targets the Central Nervous System (CNS) in the brain and destroys the cells within. In the body, there is something called the nerve growth factor (NGF) that stimulates the production of new neurons. This production may not be enough in the presence of AD. 

The ergothioneine in mushrooms helps produce more growth factors in the body and, through its anti-inflammatory action, protects the brain from inflammation. 

Furthermore, lentinan, another compound in mushrooms, helps regenerate the CNS. 

Mushrooms, therefore, can be considered essential in reducing the risk of developing MCI or even Alzheimer's disease.