Mushrooms and Ergothionine Improve Mitochondrial Health. Cognition, and Aerobic Performance

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  • by Nils Osmar. May 25, 2024
  • This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. 
  • See full Medical Disclaimer

Several recent studies suggest that higher mushroom consumption correlates with better cognitive function, and lower odds of MCI (mild cognitive impairment) in both middle-aged and older adults — and with improved aerobic performance when exercising.

2023 study The relationship between mushroom consumption and cognitive performance among middle-aged and older adults: a cross-sectional study:

From the study:

We examined the cross-sectional association between mushroom intake and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) using data from 663 participants aged 60 and above from the Diet and Healthy Aging (DaHA) study in Singapore.

Compared with participants who consumed mushrooms less than once per week, participants who consumed mushrooms >2 portions per week had reduced odds of having MCI (odds ratio = 0.43, 95% CI 0.23–0.78, p = 0.006) and this association was independent of age, gender, education, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, physical activities, and social activities.

Our cross-sectional data support the potential role of mushrooms and their bioactive compounds in delaying neurodegeneration.

2022 study:Low Plasma Ergothioneine Predicts Cognitive and Functional Decline in an Elderly Cohort Attending Memory Clinics

From the study:

Lower plasma ET levels were associated with poorer baseline cognitive performance and faster rates of decline in function as well as in multiple cognitive domains including memory, executive function, attention, visuomotor speed, and language.

2022 study: Ergothioneine Improves Aerobic Performance

From the study:

Time to exhaustion was longer in the ET than Ctrl group (+41.22%, p < 0.01). Two hours after exercise, the ET group showed higher activation of protein synthesis and satellite cells, despite their longer effort. Conversely, expression in muscles of metabolic stress and inflammation markers was decreased, as well as oxidative damage markers in the ET group. Moreover, ergothioneine did not seem to impair mitochondrial recovery. These results suggest an important effect of ergothioneine on time-to-exhaustion performance and improved muscle recovery after exercise.

These results correlate well with those found in this (unpublished) 2024 study: Ergothioneine boosts mitochondrial respiration and exercise performance via direct activation of MPST

From the study:

 Here we use a systematic approach to identify how mitochondria remodel their metabolome in response to exercise training. From this data, we find that EGT accumulates in muscle mitochondria upon exercise training. Proteome-wide thermal stability studies identify 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase (MPST) as a direct molecular target of EGT; EGT binds to and activates MPST, thereby boosting mitochondrial respiration and exercise training performance in mice. Together, these data identify the first physiologically relevant EGT target and establish the EGT-MPST axis as a molecular mechanism for regulating mitochondrial function and exercise performance.

My thoughts:

  • The studies involving mushrooms don’t specify what type of mushrooms people were eating. It seems likely though that there would be more benefit in eating kinds that are higher in ergothionine.
  • King oyster, maitake, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms are all rich in ergothionine. (Some mushrooms have only trace amounts of the compound.)
  • So I’m including all three types regularly in my diet.

Not medical advice

This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplement(s), just reporting on what I’m doing. Supplements, like medications and other interventions, can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen, and consult with a medical professional about any issues which might have a medical component.  See full Medical Disclaimer

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One Comment

  1. apparently Spirulina is also a good source of ergothioneine…

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