Back in ancient Egypt, some 4,600 or so years ago, the pharaohs forbade the consumption of mushrooms by the common folk. They believed mushrooms possessed supernatural properties that conferred immortality. So, they hogged all the mushrooms for themselves.
Today, we all know this talk of everlasting life is hooey. But might there be even a morsel of support for the notion that mushrooms can prolong life? Well, just maybe.
Researchers at Penn State University conducted a large, systematic analysis of 17 cancer studies produced from 1966 to 2020 that involved a total of nearly 20,000 cancer patients. The examination explored the idea that mushroom consumption might positively impact your risk of getting cancer.
What scientists discovered might keep the pharaohs happy. The study found people who ate any variety of mushroom in their daily diet appeared to have a lower cancer risk. Just 18 grams — an eighth to a quarter of a cup — of the fungal delights was associated with a 45% lower cancer risk compared with those who didn’t eat mushrooms.
Investigators note that mushrooms are the biggest dietary source of ergothioneine [ER-go-THI-o-an-EEN], an antioxidant that packs a serious punch and might play a role in reducing inflammation. Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body’s cells. Mushrooms are also a good source of several vitamins and other nutrients.
The scientists say more research is needed to better understand the mechanisms behind the apparent protective quality of the mushrooms and what cancers might be impacted.
No, you’re not going to live forever by eating your fill of mushrooms. But they might help you ward off cancer and live a healthier life.