Investigating mushrooms

Josie Clarkson, a Dementia Support Worker and science writer in South London, looks at research into mushrooms and brain function.

White mushrooms in soil

Love them or hate them, mushrooms can divide the crowd – their texture and earthy flavour put some people off, while others enjoy them for precisely the same reasons.

Tastes aside, mushrooms can be a valuable part of our diet, providing fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals.

Chemicals within mushrooms

Mushrooms also contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine. Reduced levels of ergothioneine have been observed in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), who also have an increased risk of developing dementia.

This doesn’t mean there’s a link between eating mushrooms and dementia, of course, but these kinds of associations can be worth exploring.

The research study behind mushrooms

A study in Singapore, of 663 people aged over 60, aimed to investigate any link between mushrooms and brain function.

Over six years, Lei Feng and his team of researchers measured how many mushrooms the people taking part in the study ate. They also tested everything from participants’ IQ, blood pressure and walking speed to their mental health. This included scoring them using a dementia symptom scale that is used to help diagnose MCI and dementia.

The people who ate at least two ‘standard portions’ – that’s over 300g – of mushrooms per week were 50 per cent less likely to have MCI.

What does the research tell us?

This doesn’t prove that eating mushrooms improved anyone’s brain function, since there could be other reasons behind this finding.

For example, people who generally eat healthier diets and are more physically active might also tend to eat more mushrooms. If that were true, then their lifestyle could explain their lower risk of developing MCI, with or without the mushrooms.

Despite this, it certainly could be worth investigating ergothioneine and other chemicals in mushrooms to see if they have any effect on their own.

These studies take time, but in the meantime, we’d recommend enjoying a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of fruit and vegetables – and that could include mushrooms!

Advice, tips and tools from the NHS

Visit the NHS Live Well site for more information and advice to help you make the best choices about your health and wellbeing.

Visit the NHS website

Care and cure magazine: Summer 19

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Care and cure is the research magazine of Alzheimer's Society is for anyone interested in dementia research.
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Is there any organisation/institution in the UK currently preparing trials for the consumption of ergothioneine?

Hello Haidee, thanks for your comment.

There are some trials going on using the drug ergothioneine. You should be able to find these here: If you find a study that looks interesting, click on the title to find out more information, including the researchers’ contact details.

If you are interested in other types of research beyond clinical trials (e.g. studies on memory and attention, questionnaires, brain scans, etc.), there is also Join Dementia Research, a database of studies on dementia that you can volunteer for: If you prefer to learn about it by phone, call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 and request information about Join Dementia Research – you will then get a call back within five working days from an adviser who can talk you through how it works and sign you up so that you can hear about studies you are eligible for.

Lastly, if you are interested in taking part in any clinical trials, we suggest that you speak to your clinician. All the above is general advice; we’re not medical professionals so we can’t provide the specific suggestions based on your personal needs and wants that they would be able to. They may also have information about clinical trials. If you tell them about any research of this type that you are interested in, they will be able to provide advice about whether it could have any negative effects for you (e.g., possible problems relating to other conditions that you may have or conflicts with any medications that you are taking).

We hope this helps for now.

Alzheimer's Society Research Communications team

Could you please give solutions on getting rid of dementia?

Thanks for getting in touch, Elaine.

There's no drug to cure dementia yet, but it's often possible to relieve some symptoms. Read more about the main drug treatments for Alzheimer's disease:…

If you're in the UK, you may also benefit from calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. Our advisers can provide you with dementia information, advice, and emotional support. More details about the support line (including opening hours) are here:

We hope this helps.

Alzheimer's Society blog team