Several recent studies have pointed to the mental health benefits associated with following a healthy diet. Now, researchers from Penn State found a specific food that could help lower the risk of depression: mushrooms.
“Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of the amino acid ergothioneine -- an anti-inflammatory which cannot be synthesized by humans,” said researcher Djibril Ba. “Having high levels of this may lower the risk of oxidative stress, which could also reduce the symptoms of depression.”
The link between diet and mental health
For the first part of the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 24,000 adults enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 through 2016. The participants recorded everything they ate for two days and then completed Patient Health Questionnaires to assess their depression risk.
Ultimately, there was a clear link between participants who regularly ate mushrooms and those who were at the lowest risk of depression; however, eating larger quantities of mushrooms wasn’t associated with significantly better mental health outcomes.
The team took into account several factors, including overall diet, socio-demographics, medical history, and medications, but the findings still held up: mushrooms were found to have protective mental health benefits. Going forward, the team would like to further investigate what types of mushrooms are associated with the greatest mental health benefits.
“The study adds to the growing list of possible health benefits of eating mushrooms,” said researcher Joshua Muscat.