Study shows the power of mushrooms

Results from the first long-term study of more than 36,000 men over several decades suggest an association between eating mushrooms and a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland – a small walnut-shaped gland found only in men and which produces the fluid that forms part of the semen – start to grow out of control.

It is one of the most common forms of cancer affecting men, with more than 1.2 million new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2018. And the risk increases with age.

“Test-tube studies and studies conducted on living organisms have shown that mushrooms have the potential to prevent prostate cancer,” said Shu Zhang, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Tohoku University in Japan, and lead author of the study.

“However, the relationship between mushroom consumption and prostate cancer in humans had never been investigated before.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first cohort study indicating the prostate cancer-preventive potential of mushrooms at a population level,” said Assoc. Prof. Zhang.

“Although our study suggests regular consumption of mushrooms may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, we also want to emphasise that eating a healthy and balanced diet is much more important than filling your shopping basket with mushrooms.”

For this study, the researchers monitored two cohorts consisting of a total of 36,499 men between the ages of 40 and 79 years in Miyagi and Ohsaki, Japan, from 1990 and 1994 respectively.

The follow-up duration for the Miyagi cohort extended from 1 June 1990 to 31 December 2014 (24.5 years), while the follow-up duration for the Ohsaki cohort extended from 1 January 1 1995 to 31 March 31 2008 (13.25 years).

The men were asked to complete a questionnaire related to their lifestyle choices, such as mushroom and other food consumption, physical activity, smoking and drinking habits, as well as provide information on their education, and family and medical history.

Long-term follow-up of the participants indicated that consuming mushrooms on a regular basis reduced the risk of prostate cancer in men and was especially significant in men aged 50 and older and in men whose diet consisted largely of meat and dairy products, with limited consumption of fruit and vegetables.

Statistical analysis of the data indicated that regular mushroom consumption was related to a lower risk of prostate cancer regardless of how much fruit and vegetables, or meat and dairy products were consumed.

Of the participants, 3.3 per cent developed prostate cancer during the follow-up period.

Participants who consumed mushrooms once or twice a week had an eight per cent lower risk of developing prostate cancer, compared to those who ate mushrooms less than once per week, while those who consumed mushrooms three or more times per week had a 17 per cent lower risk than those who ate mushrooms less than once a week.

According to the author, mushrooms are a good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially L-ergothioneine. The latter is believed to mitigate against oxidative stress, a cellular imbalance resulting from poor diet and lifestyle choices and exposure to environmental toxins that can lead to chronic inflammation and diseases such as cancer.

“The results of our study suggest mushrooms may have a positive health effect on humans,” said Assoc. Prof. Zhang. “Based on these findings, further studies that provide more information on dietary intake of mushrooms in other populations and settings are required to confirm this relationship.”

How many days per week do you consume mushrooms? Are you more likely to eat more mushrooms after reading these findings?

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Written by Ben

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