Can mushrooms improve your memory?

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In a recent study published in Nutrients, researchers explored the associations between mushroom intake and cognitive performance.

Study: The Relationship between Mushroom Intake and Cognitive Performance: An Epidemiological Study in the European Investigation of Cancer—Norfolk Cohort (EPIC-Norfolk). Image Credit: Troyan/Shutterstock.comStudy: The Relationship between Mushroom Intake and Cognitive Performance: An Epidemiological Study in the European Investigation of Cancer—Norfolk Cohort (EPIC-Norfolk). Image Credit: Troyan/


Aging is associated with changes in behavior and cognitive function, with declines in executive function, global memory, daily living skills, and mood.

Evidence implicates diet as a significant modifiable factor in alleviating age-associated cognitive decline, and various studies have revealed the neurocognitive health benefits of different food components. Culinary mushrooms are a great source of fiber, protein, phytochemicals, and vitamins.

The bioactive compounds in mushrooms have been described as anti-inflammatory agents, promoting neurogenesis and regulating neurotransmitter release. Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests a positive association between the intake of a plant-rich diet, including mushrooms, and cognitive outcomes.

Nevertheless, these studies have often not specifically investigated mushroom consumption. Further, studies that specifically investigated mushroom intake have been predominantly on Asian cohorts.

About the study

The present study examined the associations between mushroom consumption and cognitive performance in a Western cohort.

They analyzed data from the Epidemiological Study in the European Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)–Norfolk cohort that recruited more than 30,000 individuals aged 40–92 in Norfolk, the United Kingdom.

Participants were enrolled from 1993 onwards and attended several follow-up health checks. The researchers used food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) data from the first three follow-up health checks (1HC [1997-98], 2HC [1998-2000], and 3HC [2004-11]) to examine changes in mushroom consumption over time.

The association between mushroom intake and cognitive performance was investigated using data from 3HC only.

3HC included a series of cognitive tests as part of a neurocognitive battery (EPIC-COG) that assessed attention, reading, executive function, and working, visuospatial, and prospective memory.

Dietary intake was assessed using a semi-quantitative FFQ, wherein participants rated their intake of individual foods across major categories (vegetables, fruits, bread, pasta, fish, meat, sweets, dairy products, drinks, sweets, and sauces).

Participants specified their consumption frequency as one portion/day, four to five portions/day, one portion/week, two to four portions/week, five to six portions/week, never or less than once/month, and up to three portions/month.

These categorical data were used to derive the average mushroom intake, and results were reported as portions/week.

Multivariate analysis of covariance examined cognitive performance differences across four intake categories (less than one portion/month or never, one to three portions/month, one portion/week, and more than one portion/week) for each cognitive domain, accounting for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), physical activity. The team additionally adjusted for daily fruit and vegetable intake.


Of the 8,263 participants, over 59% reported their mushroom intake frequency at all three-time points.

The average weekly mushroom consumption was significantly different between time points. The average weekly intake of mushrooms reduced significantly from 1.42 portions at 1HC to 1.34 and 1.3 portions at 2HC and 3HC, respectively.

Further, the proportion of mushroom consumers and non-consumers significantly differed between time points. The proportion of non-consumers increased significantly over time.

Around 5,418 participants reported their mushroom consumption frequency and had eligible EPIC-COG test scores. Most subjects were White (99.7%) and cognitively healthy.

Approximately 65% were obese or overweight, and around 83% were regular consumers of mushrooms. There was a significant association between mushroom consumption and cognitive function.

Significant main effects of mushroom were observed for individual cognitive measures, except for the complex visuospatial memory and paired associated learning tests.

Further, data on daily intake of fruits and vegetables were available for 5,272 participants. The relationship between cognitive function and mushroom intake was still significant when the daily intake of fruits and vegetables was accounted for. Significant main effects of mushrooms were evident on individual cognitive measures, except for visuospatial memory tasks.


The study investigated consumption rates in the EPIC-Norfolk cohort and the association between mushroom consumption and cognitive function.

The proportion of mushroom consumers showed a significant reduction over time. The consumption of mushrooms had a positive association with cognitive performance, including executive function, word recall, and prospective memory.

Moreover, the association remained statistically significant after accounting for fruit and vegetable intake.

A causal inference could not be established, given the study’s cross-sectional design; the relationship could also be susceptible to reverse causality. Therefore, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine causality and directionality.

Journal reference:
Tarun Sai Lomte

Written by

Tarun Sai Lomte

Tarun is a writer based in Hyderabad, India. He has a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from the University of Hyderabad and is enthusiastic about scientific research. He enjoys reading research papers and literature reviews and is passionate about writing.


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