The magic of mushrooms: Can this fungus help delay or prevent depression?

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Along with depression, GF may have medicinal potential in enhancing the immune system and decreased blood glucose to improved spleen, stomach and nerve functioning. ©iStock
Along with depression, GF may have medicinal potential in enhancing the immune system and decreased blood glucose to improved spleen, stomach and nerve functioning. ©iStock

Related tags: Nutrition, Depression

Bioactive compounds contained within an edible mushroom may delay or prevent the onset of neurological conditions like depression, investigations have concluded.

The paper, published in the Pharmaceutical Biology​,reveals the potency of certain polysaccharides contained within the mushroom, Griflola frondosa​ (GF) demonstrating it’s potential as a safe medical food supplement.

It is well documented that the polysaccharides found in mushrooms are effective antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating and antimicrobial agents not found in plants.

Mushrooms can be used as functional foods, and their anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to halting the onset of other disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

However, research into brain and cognition health effects of mushrooms are in its infancy compared with plant and herbs, which have been more deeply explored and at a more advanced stage.

Mushroom study

Deppresive depression omega 3 cognitive brain psychology
Clinical evidence suggests that the expression of AMPA receptors is decreased in the brain of patients with depression ©iStock/Dimitri Kotin

Here, scientists from Yunnan University in China began feeding mice foods containing GF or another type of mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus ​(PO) for either one day or five days.

Mice were randomly assigned to three GF experimental groups: low dose of GF-containing food, medium dose of GF-containing food and high dose of GF-containing food.

The positive control group mice were injected with the antidepressant imipramine, while mice in the negative control group were injected with saline.

After the animals received the GF-containing food for 24 hours, the drugs or vehicle were injected into the body. Next, animal behavioural tests were conducted to further assess the antidepressant effects of GF.

Consumption of GF was found to reduce the immobility time after both one and five days.

The team also found that AMPA-specific blocker GYKI 52466 was able to block the antidepressant effects of the GF-containing food.

“GF is a safe and edible mushroom, but may have fewer side effects than the currently used antidepressants,”​ the study’s authors concluded.

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“Potentially, patients may just eat GF as a food supplement for the treatment of depression. This discovery also helps to develop effective and safe drugs for the symptoms of major depressive disorder.”

GF study history

This is not the first time GF has been investigated for its medicinal properties. Several polysaccharides purified from GF have demonstrated immune enhancing efficacy.

In addition, a water-insoluble polysaccharide from GF was found to inhibit cell growth resulting in eventual cell death.

In contrast, a specific fraction isolated from GF enhanced​,​ rather than suppressed, the development of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA).

“Whether certain metabolites enhance or suppress immune responses depends on a number of factors, including the polysaccharide, administration route and timing,”​ the authors commented. “Other dependents include their mechanism of action or the site of activity.

“The present data suggest that GF demonstrates stronger antidepressant effects in comparison to PO. This may be due to the differences in the potency of the effective components regulating key biofunctions in the animals.”

Source: Pharmaceutical Biology
Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1080/13880209.2016.1235590
“Griflola frondosa (GF) produces significant antidepressant effects involving AMPA receptor activation in mice.”
Authors: Hongkun Bao, Pengzhan Ran, et al

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