SINGAPORE: Five button mushrooms a day may be what's needed to reduce the risks of dementia, heart disease and cancer, according to a study published in the journal Food Chemistry on Nov 9.
This is owing to mushroom's two antioxidants - ergothioneine and glutathione - which have been found to fight free radicals that damage the body's cells.
Free radicals are produced by the body as it uses oxygen. These unstable and toxic molecules move throughout the body to steal electrons from cells and DNA. Once that happens, the cells and DNA are damaged, resulting in oxidative stress.
Lead researcher Professor Robert Beelman from Pennsylvania State University believed that when enough damage is accumulated, it can lead to cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Replenishing the antioxidants in the body may offer some protection against oxidative stress.
Prof Beelman said in the journal that countries with mushroom-heavy diets like France and Italy have lower rates of dementia.
"The difference between the countries with low rates of neurodegenerative diseases is about 3mg per day, which is about five button mushrooms each day," said Prof Beelman.
The mushroom with the highest quantity of ergothioneine and glutathione is wild porcini, according to the study. But even common varieties of mushrooms that contained the lowest amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione still had higher quantities than other foods.
Furthermore, cooking the mushrooms does not seem to affect the compounds much, said Prof Beelman.
The results are preliminary and don't allow for a direct cause and effect. However, Prof Beelman said in Food Chemistry that the difference between the countries and their diets is "something to look into".
For now, it doesn't hurt to ask for more mushrooms on your pizza.