Could mushrooms be the answer to our nutrient shortfall in modern western diets? One recent study seems to think so.

Read this week’s Nutrition News here for a summary of all the latest studies and research to be published.

Mushrooms to compensate for nutrient shortfall

A group of researchers have identified mushrooms as an effective way of mitigating against the shortfall of nutrients seen in many modern western diets.

Not only did the scientists involved in the study find that an 84g portion of mushrooms increased dietary fibre by 5-6% but it also increased copper intake by 24-32% and phosphorus by 6%; all crucial nutrients for keeping healthy. These findings are particularly useful for supporting western diets as they illustrate the role mushrooms could take in bolstering nutrient profiles whilst having minimal to no impact on calorie, sodium or fat consumption.

The research, reported by NutraIngredients in this article, shows that eating mushrooms can also offer important nutrient increases in potassium, selenium, zinc, riboflavin, niacin and choline and can be an abundant source of vitamin D if the mushrooms have been exposed to UV light.

While the results of this study are encouraging, it is important to note that the findings are reliant on memory and therefore subject to reporting bias and that the aim was to establish the maximum nutritional benefit of adding mushrooms to diet, which may not be reflective of normal dietary patterns. However, what the study does show is the maximum potential of adding a seemingly easy and low-cost food to our diet.

Mediterranean diet linked to better cognitive health in later life

The Mediterranean diet has been hailed for its role in healthy ageing but a recent study has gone further in researching its potential cognitive and memory support in later life, particularly for diets rich in leafy greens and low in meat.

While the study, which evaluated adults in their late 70s, did not find a link between brain health and the Mediterranean diet, it did find that those who followed a diet high in leafy green vegetables and low in meat scored higher on memory and thinking tests. The differences between those who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet to those who did not, according to this article by Science Daily, were small but significant according to researchers.

Speaking of the findings, Dr Janie Corley, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said, "Eating more green leafy vegetables and cutting down on red meat might be two key food elements that contribute to the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet. In our sample, the positive relationship between a Mediterranean diet and thinking skills is not accounted for by having a healthier brain structure, as one might expect. Though it's possible there may be other structural or functional brain correlates with this measure of diet, or associations in specific regions of the brain, rather than the whole brain, as measured here."

The key nutrients for bone health in vegan diets

Vegan diets typically contain higher levels of nutrients than modern western diets, largely due to the larger volumes of plant-based foods that are consumed. However, there are a number of specific nutrients that are typically found to be low in vegan diets, such as calcium and vitamin D. This article by Eureka reports on a recent study from the University of Helsinki, Finland, that found that people on plant based diets were more at risk of bone fractures than those on mixed diets as both bone formation and resorption increased when animal protein was replaced with plant protein.

The researchers, who assessed 136 adults of a period of 12 weeks, attribute this to the lack of dairy in the vegan diets. Speaking of the findings, Docent Suvi Itkonen from the Department of Food and Nutrition, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, said, “The results could be different if fluid dairy products had been replaced with plant-based drinks fortified with vitamin D and calcium. Then again, the average vitamin D intake was also below the recommended level in the group where subjects consumed the animal protein-rich diet, but not to the same extent as in the other groups”.

The findings suggest that a vegan diet can be a very healthy one but it is important to remember to supplement or consume foods fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.