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You might want to think twice before visiting mushrooms. Scientists recently found that a diet high in mushroom consumption was linked to a lower risk of developing cancer. The study, led by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, found this superfood to be the highest nutritional source of a “unique and potent antioxidant and cell protection” called ergothioneine.
Not only are mushrooms rich in vitamins and nutrients, they’re also powerhouses in protecting against cancer, according to a new meta-analysis and systematic review published in the journal Advances in Nutrition. The study that examined 17 cancer studies between 1966 and 2020 with data from more than 19,500 patients, found a link between a higher intake of mushrooms and a lower risk of developing cancer.
“The connection between higher mushroom consumption and a lower risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer, could point to a potential protective function of mushrooms in the diet,” the authors of the study write. Specifically, the team found that individuals who average Eighteen grams of mushrooms daily reduced their risk of cancer by 45% compared to non-mushroom eaters.
The reason why mushrooms can protect against cancer is because of their high content of the amino acid ergothioneine. Certain types of mushrooms have a particularly high ergothioneine content, such as shiitake, oyster, maitake and king oyster mushrooms. But portobello and mushroom lovers can also rest assured that, according to the researchers, all types of mushrooms were associated with a lower risk of cancer.
Certain types of mushrooms have higher levels of ergothioneine, but ingestion of all varieties of mushrooms has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer. (Source: Unsplash)
Overall, these results provide important information about the protective effect of fungi against cancer.
Professor John Richie, Penn State Cancer Institute
“Mushrooms are the primary nutritional source of ergothioneine, which is a unique and powerful antioxidant and cell protectant.” explained co-author Djibril M. Ba, a PhD student in epidemiology at Penn State College of Medicine.
“Replenishing antioxidants in the body can help protect against oxidative stress and lower the risk of cancer.”
The strongest association appeared between people who regularly consumed mushrooms and a far lower risk for Breast cancer. Scientists believe this could be because most of the studies in the analysis included breast cancer in their samples and did not include other cancers, but it could also provide a way to determine if there are stronger associations with certain cancers in future studies.
“Collectively, these results provide important evidence for the protective effects of mushrooms against cancer,” concluded co-author Professor John Richie of Public Health Sciences and Pharmacology at Penn State Cancer Institute.
“Future studies are needed to better identify the mechanisms involved and specific cancers that may be affected.”
Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of death from all causes. (Source: Unsplash)
Mushrooms are the primary food source for ergothioneine, a unique and powerful antioxidant and cell protection.
Djibril M. Ba, co-author and graduate student, Penn State College of Medicine
In addition to adding mushrooms to your diet, scientists have also recommended that consuming a variety of plant-based foods is generally associated with greater positive health outcomes.
Scientists previously found that high protein intake from plants like legumes, whole grains, and nuts is linked to a lower risk of developing a number of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. However, regular consumption of red meat and other animal proteins has been linked to multiple health problems and a higher death rate from all causes, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Similar results were found in another study by the National Cancer Institute in the United States that found an “inverse relationship” between high plant-based foods and the death rate from heart disease. The strongest connection was found in replacing red meat and eggs with whole-food sources of vegetable protein.
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