Study Finds Mushrooms Could Be The Highly Sought Remedy For Alzheimer's Disease

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Jan 25, 2017 01:30 AM EST

The rigatoni with mushroom marsala ragu from Bar Primi at the 2016 New York Taste presented by Citi hosted by New York Magazine on November 1, 2016 in New York City. (Photo : Brian Ach/Getty Images)

A new study found that mushrooms could be the highly sought remedy for Alzheimer's disease. The researchers found that mushrooms contain bioactive compounds that could play a role in decreasing or delaying the development of neurodegeneration.

Up to 5.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and, 42 million cases are expected worldwide by 2020. However, current treatment and drugs used in the management of the diseases has proved ineffective, but the new study shows that properties in certain edible and medicinal mushrooms could enhance nerve growth in the brain and protect against causes of age-related diseases.

The researchers claim that the bioactive compounds could play a key role in reducing or delaying the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases with previous studies showing that mushrooms exhibit antioxidant, antivirus, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-diabetic and antimicrobial activities.

The disease is usually accompanied by symptoms such as difficulty remembering new information, mood swings and behavioral changes, disorientation, suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers, memory loss, difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking, according to Daily Mail.

The stages of the disease are mild Alzheimer's (early-stage), moderate Alzheimer's (middle-stage) and     Severe Alzheimer's disease (late-stage). Since there is no known cure for the disease, experts recommend physical exercise, social interaction and adding brain boosting omega-3 fats to diet so as to slowdown symptoms.

Mushrooms that have anti-inflammatory properties can be used in combating high blood pressure which contributes to age-related chronic diseases including neurodegenerative diseases. The study was conducted at the University of Malaysia and it investigated the anti-dementia active compounds and pharmacological test results of mushrooms.

The researchers studied the effects of 11 different types of edible and medicinal mushrooms on the brains of mice and rat. They found that each mushroom increased the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) which is involved in regulating growth, maintenance and survival of certain nerve cells in the brain.

The production of NGF promoted peripheral nerve regeneration in the rats. This could protect neurons from chemical substances that cause cell death, as mushrooms stimulate NGF production.  Some specific mushrooms were also found to have particular brain health benefits:

Cordyceps is a medicinal mushroom which prevents neuronal cell death and memory loss due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The Lion's Mane mushroom is another rare edible used for culinary and medicinal purposes in Asia and is said to have positive effects on mild cognitive impairment. The Reishi mushroom is also a herbal remedy used in improving cognitive abilities and increased longevity.

The researchers report that studies on the effects of mushrooms on brain and cognition health are in their early stages when compared to plant and herbal medicine that is already widely explored and relatively more advanced. Past studies have focused on periwinkle and ginseng, which have been found to boost cognitive function, according to Health Medicine Net.

Other studies have also found that an active essential oil that gives rosemary its favorable scent improves speed and accuracy when performing certain mental tasks. The current study might lead to the identification of more food materials that are neuroprotective, editor-in-chief of Journal of Medicinal Food where the study appeared, Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy said.

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