Few diseases are as scary as Alzheimer’s. And there has been little pharmaceutical progress in treating it. No new drug has been approved for Alzheimer’s since 2003. But new research is showing that this crazy looking mushroom can reduce cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s.

It may come as a surprise that eating mushrooms can reduce the odds of mild cognitive impairment and help treat Alzheimer’s because of their powerful neuroprotective and antioxidant effects (J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;68(1):197-203).

One mushroom that is proving especially promising for cognition is Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus).

Lion’s mane has been shown to prevent deterioration of short memories and improved cognitive function in people with an average age of 61.3 (Biomed Res. 2019;40(4):125-131). It has also been shown to improve scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo (Phytother Res. 2009 Mar ;23(3):367-72).

One study has shown that depression and anxiety improve in menopausal women who take lion’s mane (Biomed Res. 2010 Aug;31(4):231-7).

Now for the first time, a double-blind study has shown that lion’s mane benefits people with early Alzheimer’s.

41 people with mild Alzheimer’s were given either a placebo or 350mg of lion’s mane standardized for 5mg/g erinacine A three times a day for 49 weeks.

The people who took the lion’s mane experienced significant benefit in reducing cognitive decline. They improved significantly more on Instrumental Activities of Daily Living scores, meaning that they were able to live more independently.

On the Mini-Mental State Examination, scores improved significantly in the lion’s mane group but not in the placebo group, indicating better cognition, though the difference between the two groups was not significant. The researchers noted that the lion’s mane group achieved more benefit.

Similarly, on the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument, people on the mushroom improved while the placebo group got worse, though the difference did not reach significance.

Lion’s mane also had an intriguing effect on vision. Contrast sensitivity is significantly reduced in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This study found that lion’s mane was also able to significantly improve contrast sensitivity.

Adding to the evidence of benefit for cognition and mental health, this is the first study to show that lion’s mane benefits cognition and daily living in people with mild Alzheimer’s.

Front Aging Neurosci. 2020;12:155

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