Food for Thought: Are Mushrooms Magical for Health?
Mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicine, but do they deserve a place in modern medicine? The answer is murky. Some animal and laboratory research hints at mushrooms’ possible health benefits, but few human studies exist. Additionally, some of these benefits are only associated with certain types of mushrooms, making it even harder to suss out a straight answer. To help shed light on the research, NPR reported on several studies to consider:
Better immune function. Fifty-two healthy adults experienced improvements in markers of immune cell function after eating five or ten grams of shitake mushroom—less than one mushroom—daily for four weeks, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Reduced obesity. In mice fed a high-fat diet, a reishi mushroom extract protected against weight gain, inflammation, and insulin resistance by preventing diet-related loss of healthy gut microbial balance, according to a study in Nature Communications.
Brain support. Improved markers of cognitive function, including reduced neurotoxicity and increased nerve growth, have been associated with extracts of culinary-medicinal mushrooms like lion’s main and maitake, according to a research review of 20 different mushrooms and their extracts, published in the Journal Critical Reviews in Biotechnology.
So, we will have to wait for trials in humans to confirm these promising findings and to establish the role of mushrooms in modern medical practice. What we do know for certain is mushrooms have unique nutritional attributes and definitely have a place in a nutritious, vegetable-rich diet that is associated with strong immune function, proper weight management, and reduced cognitive decline.
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