The Rise of the Humble Mushrooms

Mushroom is not only a savory food but is also beneficial for cognitive health in elderly and reduced prevalence of fatty liver disease.

A recent article published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease assessed the cross-sectional association between mushroom consumption and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in 663 individuals aged ≥60 years from the Diet and Healthy Aging (DaHA) study in Singapore. The researchers successfully concluded that participants consuming >2 portions of mushroom per week were less likely to develop MCI (OR= 0.43, 95% CI 0.23-0.78, p= 0.006) compared to participants consuming mushrooms <1 portion per week1.

Zhang et al.2 in their prospective cross-sectional study included 24,236 Chinese adults with a mean age of 40.7 years and examined the association of mushroom intake and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The prevalence of NAFLD decreased with increased consumption of mushroom, whether 2-3 times/week (OR= 0.95, 95% CI 0.86-1.05, P= 0.01) or ≥4 times/week (OR= 0.76, 95% CI 0.63-0.92, P= 0.01) compared to participants who consumed ≤1 time/week (reference= 1.00), and it was independent of age, sex and BMI.

Mushrooms are popular among vegetarians due to their high nutritional value; they are rich in proteins and amino acids (aspartic acid, glutamine, glutamic acid, leucine, and valine), carbohydrates (chitin, glycogen, mannitol and trehalose), fiber (β-glucan, hemicelluloses and pectin), polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins (folates, niacin, vitamin B2 and traces of vitamin, B1, B12, C, D and E) and minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc) and are low in fat and calories3.

Additionally, mushrooms are also considered a functional food (nutraceutical) and this property is attributed to their bioactive compounds including secondary metabolites (acids, alkaloids, lactones, metal chelating agents, nucleotide analogs, polyphenols, sterols, sesquiterpenes, terpenoids and vitamins), polysaccharides (mainly β-glucans) and glycoproteins3.
For more than 5000 years the traditional Chinese medicine has utilized mushrooms bioactivities, which include antioxidant property, anti-inflammatory activity, immunomodulatory activity, anticancer property, antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal) activity, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antihypertensive and anti-hypercholesterolemia activities. These properties render them useful in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases4.

The distinction between edible and medicinal mushrooms is extremely difficult due to the nutraceutical properties of many edible mushrooms. Agaricus bisporus (button mushroom), Agaricus blazei (sun mushroom), Agaricus subrufescens (almond mushroom), Auricularia auricular-judae (ear), Coprinus comatus (shaggy mane), Flammulina velutipes, Grifola frondosa (maitake), Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s head), Lentinus edodes (shiitake), Lentinus polychrous, Lepista nuda (blewit), Pleurotus species (oyster mushroom), Pholiota nameko, Panellus serotinus (Mukitake), Tremella fuciformis, Tremetes versicolor and Volvariella volvacea (straw) are examples of some of the edible mushrooms. Whereas medicinal mushrooms include Ganoderma (Lingzhi/Reishi), Huitlacoche, Cordyceps species and Antrodia cinnanomea3,5.

The use of mushrooms is not only limited to the food and biomedicine industry but also encompasses industries such as cosmetics, agriculture, wastewater management and environmental protection5.

This fungus has garnered worldwide recognition and appreciation not only in the culinary department, but its bioactivities and various health benefits have made it a superfood. The medicinal properties of mushrooms are directing novel researches into deriving bioactive extracts from them and formulating medicines for various chronic diseases.


1. Feng L, Cheah IK, Ng MM, Li J, Chan SM, Lim SL, Mahendran R, Kua EH, Halliwell B. The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2019;68(1):197-203.
2. Zhang S, Gu Y, Lu M, Fu J, Zhang Q, Liu L, Meng G, Yao Z, Wu H, Bao X, Sun S, Wang X, Zhou M, Jia Q, Song K, Wu Y, Niu K. Association between edible mushroom intake and the prevalence of newly diagnosed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: results from the TCLSIH Cohort Study in China. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2019;:1-26.
3. Valverde ME, Hernandez-Perez T, Paredes-Lopez O. Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life. International Journal of Microbiology. 2015;2015:376387.
4. Zhang JJ, Li Y, Zhou T, Xu DP, Zhang P, Li S, Li HB. Bioactivities and Health Benefits of Mushrooms Mainly from China. Molecules. 2016;21(7):938.
5. Kozarski M, Klaus A, Jakovljevic D, Todorovic N, Vunduk J, Petrović P, Niksic M, Vrvic MM, van Griensven L. Antioxidants of Edible Mushrooms. Molecules. 2015;20(10):19489-19525.