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In a recent study published in Nutrients, researchers investigated the relationship between mushroom consumption and cognitive performance.

Study: The Relationship Between Mushroom Consumption and Cognitive Performance - An Epidemiological Study in the Framework of European Cancer Research – Norfolk Cohort (EPIC-Norfolk). Image Credit: Trojan/Shutterstock.com









Study:
The Relationship Between Mushroom Consumption and Cognitive Performance – An Epidemiological Study in the Framework of European Cancer Research – Norfolk Cohort (EPIC-Norfolk)
. Image Credit: Trojan/Shutterstock.com

Background

Age is associated with changes in behavior and cognitive functions, with a decline in executive functions, global memory, activities of daily living, and mood.

There is evidence to suggest that diet is a significant modifiable factor in alleviating age-related cognitive decline, and various studies have demonstrated the neurocognitive health benefits of different dietary components. Edible mushrooms are a great source of fiber, protein, phytochemicals, and vitamins.

The bioactive compounds in mushrooms have been described as anti-inflammatory agents that promote neurogenesis and regulate neurotransmitter release. Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests a positive association between the consumption of a plant-rich diet, including mushrooms, and cognitive outcomes.

However, mushroom consumption has often not been specifically examined in these studies. Moreover, studies specifically examining mushroom consumption have been predominantly conducted on Asian cohorts.

About the Study

The present study examined the associations between mushroom consumption and cognitive performance in a western cohort.

They analyzed data from the European Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk cohort, which recruited over 30,000 individuals aged 40 to 92 in Norfolk, UK.

Participants were enrolled from 1993 and underwent several follow-up health checks. Researchers used data from the Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) from the first three follow-up health checks (1HC [1997-98], 2HC [1998-2000], and 3HC [2004-11]) to examine changes in mushroom consumption over time.

The relationship between mushroom consumption and cognitive performance was exclusively examined based on data from 3HC.

3HC included a battery of cognitive tests as part of the neurocognitive battery (EPIC-COG), which assessed attention, reading, executive functions, as well as working, visual-spatial, and prospective memory.

Dietary intake was assessed using a semi-quantitative FFQ, where participants rated their consumption of individual foods into main categories (vegetables, fruits, bread, pasta, fish, meat, sweets, dairy, beverages, desserts, and sauces).

Participants reported their consumption frequency as one portion/day, four to five portions/day, one portion/week, two to four portions/week, five to six portions/week, never or less than once/month, and up to three portions/month.

These categorical data were used to derive average mushroom intake, and the results were reported in portions/week.

Multivariate analysis of covariance examined cognitive performance differences across four intake categories (less than one portion/month or never, one to three portions/month, one portion/week, and more than one portion/week) for each cognitive domain, taking into account age, gender, Body Mass Index (BMI), physical activity. The team also adjusted for daily fruit and vegetable consumption.

Results

Of the 8,263 participants, over 59% reported how often they consumed mushrooms at all three time points.

The average weekly mushroom consumption differed significantly across time points. Average weekly mushroom intake decreased significantly from 1.42 portions at 1HC to 1.34 and 1.3 portions at 2HC and 3HC, respectively.

Additionally, the proportion of mushroom consumers and non-consumers differed significantly across time points, with the proportion of non-consumers increasing markedly over time.

Approximately 5,418 participants reported their mushroom consumption frequency and had appropriate EPIC-COG test results. Most participants were White (99.7%) and cognitively healthy.

Approximately 65% were obese or overweight, and about 83% regularly consumed mushrooms. There was a significant association between mushroom consumption and cognitive function.

Significant main effects of mushrooms were observed on individual cognitive measurements, except for complex visual-spatial memory and paired associated learning tests.

Furthermore, data on daily fruit and vegetable intake were available for 5,272 participants. The association between cognitive function and mushroom consumption remained significant even after accounting for daily fruit and vegetable intake. Significant main effects of mushrooms on individual cognitive measurements were evident, except for visual-spatial memory tasks.

Conclusions

The study examined consumption rates in the EPIC-Norfolk cohort and the relationship between mushroom consumption and cognitive function.

The proportion of mushroom consumers showed a significant decline over time. Mushroom consumption was positively associated with cognitive performance, including executive function, word recall, and prospective memory.

Furthermore, the association remained statistically significant even after considering fruit and vegetable consumption.

Due to the cross-sectional design of the study, no causal inference could be drawn; the relationship could also be susceptible to reverse causality. Therefore, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine causality and directionality.

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