Mushroom consumption may lower risk of depression

Because of their numerous health benefits, mushrooms have been in the news a lot lately. These superfoods can lower the risk of developing cancer or premature death. New research by Penn State College of Medicine has also revealed that they may be beneficial for mental health.
Penn State researchers used data about diet and mental health from over 24,000 U.S. adults, between 2005 and 2016. Researchers found that those who ate mushrooms had lower chances of developing depression.

Researchers found that mushrooms contain ergothioneine which is an antioxidant that can protect the body from tissue and cell damage. Research has shown that antioxidants can help prevent mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Djibril Ba (lead researcher), recently completed the epidemiology doctoral program at The College of Medicine. "Mushrooms provide the highest intake of the amino acid Ergothioneine -- an antioxidant which cannot be synthesized in humans." This may reduce the risk of oxidative stresses, which can also help to lower depression symptoms.

White button mushrooms are the most popular mushroom variety in America. They contain potassium which is thought to reduce anxiety. Certain edible mushrooms, including Hericium erinaceus (also known as Lion's Mane), may also stimulate neurotrophic factors like nerve growth factor synthesis. This could help prevent neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.

Researchers found that college-educated non-Hispanic white women are more likely to eat mushrooms. The average age of the surveyed participants was 45. A majority (66%) were non-Hispanic White people. After accounting for socio-demographics and major risk factors, medication, and other factors, the investigators found a significant association between mushrooms consumption and lower chances of depression. However, they concluded that there was no additional benefit to eating a lot of mushrooms.

Joshua Muscat, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher who is also a professor of public health sciences, said that the study "adds to the growing list potential health benefits of eating mushrooms."

A secondary analysis was done by the team to determine if a daily serving of processed or red meat could be replaced with a portion of mushrooms. The team found that the substitution did not increase the chance of developing depression.

There have been very few studies that examined the relationship between mushrooms and depression before this research. Most of these were clinical trials with less than 100 participants. Researchers stated that this study highlights the clinical and public health benefits of mushrooms consumption in reducing depression and other diseases.

Researchers noted some limitations that could have been addressed in future research. The data didn't provide any details about the mushrooms. Researchers could not determine whether certain types of mushrooms have a negative effect on depression. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued food codes to help determine mushrooms intake. Some entries might have been misclassified, or incorrectly recorded.

John Richie, Xiang Gao and Laila Al Shaar from Penn State Cancer Institute; Vernon Chinchilli and Vernon Chinchilli both from Penn State College of Medicine; Robert Beelman also from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences contributed to this research. Researchers declare that they have no conflicts of interest and received no funding support.