Review: Why Asian mushrooms merit animal and human studies to assess Alzheimer's benefits

By Millette Burgos

- Last updated on GMT

Edible mushrooms possible aid for cognitive health  © iStock
Edible mushrooms possible aid for cognitive health © iStock
The traditional use of some mushroom species in Asia to boost cognitive function, along with papers purportedly showing their brain health benefits, mean they are worthy of scientific investigation to see if they can help people with Alzheimer's Disease, a new review concludes.

As more people live longer, the economic cost of neurodegenerative diseases will rise. In 2013, the estimated global cost of care for dementia including Alzheimer's (AD) was US$604bn – or about one per cent of the world gross domestic product, according a review headed by the Mushroom Research Centre of the University of Malaya, in Malaysia.

“Current drug therapy for neurodegenerative diseases is ineffective with many side effects, and it only provides a short-term delay in the progression of the disease,”​ wrote the researchers. “Furthermore, the drug development pipeline is drying up and the number of innovative drugs reaching the market has lagged behind the growing need for such drugs.”

Therfore, the review stressed the need for alternative health approaches to help slow down the development of neurodegenerative disease among the global population.

Medicinal mushrooms

The review suggested using dietary supplementations and functional foods such as edible mushrooms, and identified the following fungi species that studies say possess brain health benefits. These are Hericium erinaceus​, Dictyophora indusiata, G. frondosa, T. fuciformis, L. rhinocerotis, Cordyceps militaris, Pleurotus giganteus Karunarathna and K.D. Hyde, Ganoderma lucidum P. Karst​, and Ganoderma neo-japonicum Imazeki.

For example, the extract from Hericium erinaceus​ or lion’s mane mushroom used in Chinese medicine and cuisine reportedly exerts neurotrophic action and improve the process that increases speed of electrical communication between neurons (myelination) in the rat brain – without affecting nerve cell growth and toxicity.

Meanwhile, Japanese researchers were able to isolate two compounds, namely eudesmane-type sesquiterpenes, and dictyophorines A and B in the Dictyophora indusiata​ mushroom, which help promote nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis in rat astroglial cells.

On the other hand, the chemical compound Lysophosphatidylethanolamine (LPE) isolated from G. frondosa​ mushroom help induce neurite outgrowth in cultured PC12 cells (cells derived from a pheochromocytoma of the rat adrenal medulla).

The aqueous extract of T. fuciformis​ mushroom also promoted the neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells, the review said.

The paper also pointed out that indigenous people in Malaysia claim that L. rhinocerotis​ fungi helps relieves cough, asthma, fever, cancer, and food poisoning. According to research, this fungi’s hot aqueous extract (25 lg/mL) stimulated neuritogenic activity in PC12 cells.

“Selected edible and medicinal mushrooms may effectively enhance neurite outgrowth in the brain by stimulating NGF production, mimicking the NGF reactivity, or by protecting neurons from neurotoxicants-induced cell death,”​ said the review.

“However, extensive animal and human clinical trials are warranted, which may then lead to designing functional food or novel therapeutic drugs to prevent or mitigate the effects of neurodegenerative diseases.”


Source: Journal of Medicinal Food

DOI: 10.1089/jmf.2016.3740

“Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms: Emerging Brain Food for the Mitigation of Neurodegenerative Diseases”

Authors: Chia-Wei Phan, Pamela David and Vikineswary Sabaratnam

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