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By John Schieszer
Medical Minutes 

Eating more mushrooms may protect the brain

Also: Fitness as a factor in determining longevity


April 1, 2019

Mushrooms may have hidden brain benefit

Researchers are reporting that older adults who consume more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have 50 percent reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment (MCI). A six-year study, led by Assistant Professor Lei Feng from the National University of Singapore, found that seniors who ate more than 300 grams of cooked mushrooms a week were half as likely to have MCI.

A portion was defined as three quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms with an average weight of around 150 grams. Two portions would be equivalent to approximately half a plate. While the portion sizes act as a guideline, it was shown that even one small portion of mushrooms a week may still be beneficial to reduce chances of MCI. “This correlation is surprising and encouraging. It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline,” said Feng.

The six-year study, which was conducted from 2011 to 2017, collected data from more than 600 Chinese seniors over the age of 60 living in Singapore. Six commonly consumed mushrooms in Singapore were referenced in the study. They were golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms, as well as dried and canned mushrooms. However, it is likely that other mushrooms not referenced would also have beneficial effects.

The researchers believe the reason for the reduced prevalence of MCI in mushroom eaters may be due to a specific compound called ergothioneine. It is a unique antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.

Exercise ability may determine lifespan

A new study is suggesting that higher fitness levels may determine a longer lifespan after age 70. Researchers found that among people over age 70, physical fitness was a much better predictor of survival than the number of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

The findings, which were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, suggest doctors can get a better picture of older patients’ health by looking at how fit they are, rather than how many cardiovascular risk factors they have.

“We found fitness is an extremely strong risk predictor of survival in the older age group, that is regardless of whether you are otherwise healthy or have cardiovascular risk factors, being more fit means you’re more likely to live longer than someone who is less fit,” said study investigator Dr. Seamus P. Whelton, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Cardiovascular risk factors help guide decisions about preventive measures and medications. Previous studies have shown that quitting smoking and

controlling blood pressure, and cholesterol were important heart disease risk factors. However, most studies of cardiovascular risk factors have focused on middle-aged people, leaving a knowledge gap regarding the importance of these risk factors in older people, said Dr. Whelton.

The team analyzed medical records from more than 6,500 people aged 70 years and older who underwent an exercise stress test between 1991 and 2009. They assessed fitness based on patients’ performance during the exercise stress test, which required patients to exercise on a treadmill as hard as they could.

On average, participants were 75 years old when they underwent the stress test. Researchers tracked the patients for an average of just under 10 years, during which time 39 percent of them died. Over this period, the researchers found higher fitness was associated with significantly increased rates of survival. The most fit individuals were more than twice as likely to be alive 10 years later compared with the least fit individuals.

Combating colorectal cancer with small dietary changes

Consumption of allium vegetables, which include garlic, leeks and onions, may help reduce your risk of getting colorectal cancer. Researchers conducted a study with 833 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer and compared them to 833 healthy individuals who were the same age, sex and residence area.

Demographic and dietary information were collected via face-to-face interviews using a validated food frequency questionnaire. The researchers found the odds of having colorectal cancer was 79 percent lower in adults who consumed high amounts of allium vegetables compared with those who consumed low amounts.

“It is worth noting that in our research, there seems to be a trend: the greater the amount of allium vegetables, the better the protection,” said senior author Dr. Zhi Li, who is with the First Hospital of China Medical University. “In general, the present findings shed light on the primary prevention of colorectal cancer through lifestyle intervention, which deserves further in-depth explorations.”

The researchers say further studies are warranted to better understand the association between allium vegetables and lower rates of colorectal cancer.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

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