Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is key to staying healthy, but recent research shows that one particular type of food may be just what the doctor ordered to keep a wide variety of different types of cancers at bay.
The study, conducted by researchers at Penn State and published in Advances in Nutrition, involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 cancer studies published from 1966 to 2020. There were a total of 19,500 patients involved in the studies.
Researchers investigated the relationship between mushroom consumption and cancer risk among the participants. They posited that, because mushrooms are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants, they might be a fantastic superfood for guarding against cancer.
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“Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of ergothioneine, which is a unique and potent antioxidant and cellular protector,” says Djibril M. Ba, a graduate student in epidemiology at Penn State College of Medicine. “Replenishing antioxidants in the body may help protect against oxidative stress and lower the risk of cancer.”
The researchers discovered that individuals who incorporated a variety of mushrooms into their diets had a lower risk of cancer. People who ate 18 grams of mushrooms daily actually had a 45 percent lower risk of cancer compared to those who did not eat mushrooms.
The association between mushrooms and cancer was strongest with breast cancer, but researchers believe this may be due in part to the fact that some of the studies only worked with that specific type of cancer.
Of course, some mushrooms are better than others when it comes to nutrition and cancer-fighting properties. Shiitake, oyster, maitake, and king oyster mushrooms have the highest amounts of the amino acid ergothioneine, making them better for staving off cancer. However, portabello, white button, and cremini mushrooms are still healthy additions to your diet and can help defend you against cancer.
“Overall, these findings provide important evidence for the protective effects of mushrooms against cancer,” says coauthor John Richie, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher and professor of public health sciences and pharmacology. “Future studies are needed to better pinpoint the mechanisms involved and specific cancers that may be impacted.”
Future research should examine the link between mushroom intake and other specific types of cancer. Experts also hope to determine why mushrooms are so good for this purpose and whether their cancer-fighting properties could be reproduced in the lab.
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