Eating mushrooms regularly is linked to a major reduction in the risk of developing cancer, according to a new analysis published in the journal Advances in Nutrition.
As the article’s authors note, mushrooms are known to contain a variety of bioactive compounds — chemicals that can have a range of largely beneficial effects in the body. These compounds include vitamins and other nutrients, including antioxidant compounds that can reduce the harmful effects of stress on cells in the body. Among the potentially most beneficial compounds found in mushrooms is the amino acid ergothioneine, which is a potent antioxidant that isn’t found in significant amounts in any other food source, as noted in an article on the study at Medical Dialogues.
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Mushroom consumption linked to lower cancer risk
The latest analysis involved looking at all relevant studies with data on mushroom consumption and cancer as an outcome, from 1966 through October 2020. A total of 17 studies made the cut, and the researchers combined the data from all study participants. They found that participants who reported the highest mushroom intake — those who consumed an average of at least 18 grams of mushrooms daily — were about 44% less to develop all forms of cancer than participants who didn’t eat mushrooms.
Higher mushroom consumption was also linked to a lower risks for breast cancer in particular, with a 45% lower risk for those who ate the most mushrooms. For other forms of cancer, the risk reduction based on high mushroom intake was found to be only about 20%. There wasn’t enough data, with a strong enough effect seen, to determine that the risk for any specific type of cancer other than breast cancer was reduced among people who ate more mushrooms.
One potential limitation of the analysis is that all of the included studies were observational, meaning that they looked at what people already ate instead of assigning some people to eat more mushrooms than others. Since there may be many differences between people who eat more mushrooms and those who don’t, observational studies can miss hard-to-measure factors like a generally healthier mindset to food, but they have the advantage of being able to look at large numbers of people for long periods of time.
While all types of mushrooms are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and ergothioneine, the mushroom varieties with the highest levels of ergothioneine include shiitake, mistake, oyster, and king oyster mushrooms. White button and portabella or cremini mushrooms — varieties commonly found in grocery stores — contain lower levels of ergothioneine, as noted in the Medical Dialogues article.
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