A new study suggests that certain mushrooms contain two antioxidants that can thwart or slow down the ageing process.
The study was published in the journal Food Chemistry. The new research was led by Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science and director of the Pennsylvania State University Center for Plant and Mushroom Products.
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Mushrooms are the highest source of an antioxidant called ergothioneine, but little was known about glutathione, another key antioxidant.
The research team wanted to know which species had the most of these two chemicals levels of antioxidants since the levels differ across different species of mushroom.
Prof. Beelman explains, “The theory has been around for a long time and it says when we oxidize our food to produce energy there’s a number of free radicals that are produced that are side products of that action and many of these are quite toxic.”
“The body has mechanisms to control most of them,” he goes on to say, “including ergothioneine and glutathione, but eventually enough accrue to cause damage, which has been associated with many of the diseases of aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.”
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However, the free radical theory of aging is quite controversial. Some studies conducted on rodents have established that by removing free radicals from cells, they can prolong the lifespan of the animals.
Other studies to show that supplementing the body with antioxidants can do the same have been unsuccessful. Although the chances of living a healthy life, devoid of disease until the end of the maximum lifespan have been shown to increase with antioxidants.
Richest in antioxidants are the Porcini mushrooms
According to Prof. Beelman, “What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them.”
He added that “Out of the 13 species tested, the porcini has the highest, by far, of any we tested.”
Common species of mushroom had less of the two antioxidants. Also, the study found a link between ergothioneine and glutathione, as mushrooms that had high concentrations in one also had high levels of the other.
Prof. Beelman also noted that cooking the mushrooms will not alter the antioxidants, because the compounds are very heat stable.
Also, future studies might examine the effects of these two antioxidants on neurodegenerative disorders.
Prof. Beelman adds, “People with low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, like those in the U.S. have a higher probability of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.”
He added that it isn’t yet certain if it’s just a connection or causative, but it ought to be looked into.
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