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Eating Mushrooms Lowers Depression Risk

A large-scale analysis of people who eat mushrooms suggests they have a lower risk of developing depression.

The association is still a mystery, and for now, the authors say the data should be interpreted with caution. There’s always a chance the results are a mere correlation, especially since eating more mushrooms didn’t seem to lower the odds of depression any further.

That said, this is one of the first large observational studies on general mushroom consumption and depression. It includes the diet and mental health data of more than 24,000 adults across the United States from 2005 to 2016.

The findings don’t differentiate between various types of mushrooms, but they are consistent with several small clinical trials on lion’s mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus), which found eating certain types of fungi can help reduce depression and anxiety.

“The study adds to the growing list of possible health benefits of eating mushrooms,” says public health scientist Joshua Muscat from the Pennsylvania State University.

What it is specifically about some mushrooms that makes them good for our health is still a puzzle. 

White button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) are the most commonly eaten fungi in the US and are full of potassium, which is thought to help lower anxiety. Other edible mushrooms like lion’s mane are known to contain neurotrophic factors linked to brain health, as well as anti-inflammatory agents, which are thought to help alleviate symptoms of depression. 

But nutrition science is tricky business. Mushrooms host a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that could be contributing to their apparent antidepressant effects. Teasing out which factors are at play will require many more molecular, clinical, and epidemiological studies. 

Nevertheless, there’s a powerful antioxidant known as ergothioneine contained in mushrooms that scientists have their eye on. Humans can only get it through diet, and mushrooms have it in the highest concentrations of any fresh foods we consume. Read more:

Anand Vaid

Sempera Organics' staff writer seeks out all the latest mushroom news to keep you informed and up-to-date.