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Ergothioneine: The Longevity Boosting Superhero You Haven't Heard Of

Are mushrooms on your plate?

We all know about vitamins but there is also a class of nutrients that may not be considered essential but that may be important for fighting aging or age related conditions


 These nutrients now are classified as longevity vitamins so unlike an essential vitamin, a lack of longevity vitamins in the diet won't cause in a disease per se not like scurvy for example or Pellagra but instead a lack of these nutrients reduces the ability of the human body to function well over a course of a lifespan


If you don't get enough of longevity vitamins in your diet you won't immediately notice or feel an effect but over a longer period of time the body won't function as well as it could.


Ergothioneine is one such longevity vitamin and may be something to consider for healthy ageing.


Research is ongoing in several areas from cognitive Health to immune and  cardiovascular health from  physical health to  skin health and more.


In fact the numbers of scientific papers that mention ergothioneine has greatly increased this past decade.


 Ergothioneine was discovered in 1909 and since its discovery the interest has been rather slow to catch on  but in the past ten to 15 years the research has really taken off.


Ergothioneine is an amino acid originally isolated from a fungus on Rye called Ergot.


The chemical structure it looks a lot like the amino acid  called Histidine.


Ergothioneine has very interesting antioxidant properties.

 It has high Redox potential, it's resistant to Auto oxidation like unlike other thioles like glutathione unlike glutathione, it acts as a metal chelator and it serves as a cellular protectant and what's really interesting about ergothioneine is that the cells in the human body expresses a very unique transporter for ergothioneine which allows it to get inside cells to combat oxidative stress.


But Ergothioneine is not made in the human body, it's only found in the diet and yet our bodies have designed a specific cellular transporter to allow ergothioneine  to get in.


 for a molecule that the body doesn't even make this is unusual and this discovery was found in 2005 and that's what spurned the the tremendous boom in scientific research papers because researchers wanted to understand what is it, about this molecule why do we even express this transporter  for a molecule that the body doesn't even make.


The transporter is expressed on many cell types in the human body from brain to the  eyes to the heart and lungs. At least 290 different cells types in the human body expresses the ergothioneine transporter.


There are two major reasons why is this important for us to know.


1.        it means ergothioneine is able to act on different cells of the human body and so it's able to act multi-functionally across the human body in different organs.

 That demonstrates the multi-functional potential and effect of  it for aging.



2.        Ergothioneine is highly bioavailable due to this transporter and it’s expressed everywhere.  In one human study ergothioneine was shown to be rapidly absorbed, it's retained in cells and there's very little that's excreted in the urine and ergothioneine  is metabolized but rather slowly.   


3.        much attention has been focused on ergothioneine for cognitive health - the transporter is found in the brain and it's also shown that ergothieneine can cross the blood brain barrier. In one study that measured blood ergothioneine  levels in 25 subjects with mild cognitive impairment compared to 25 subjects that are age matched that are considered cognitively normal.


It was found that the ergothioneine level was significantly lower in patients that had mild cognitive impairment and the same trend was also seen in patients with Parkinson's disease compared to cognitively normal subjects. These results among others results from other studies,  suggest that a certain level of ergothioneine  in the blood is important for supporting brain health.


 So what are some ways to boost ergothioneine in the blood:

Top Foods  include mushrooms, with oyster mushrooms leading the way but also porcini mushrooms are very high, followed by shitake mushrooms, portabello mushrooms, button mushrooms.

Tempeh is another good food source, even though it's not a mushroom and garlic is another source.

3 servings of mushroom sources and Tempeh can provide between 1 milligram to 7 milligrams of ergothioneine .

So, just two servings of mushrooms a week can substantially reduce odds for mild cognitive impairment by up to 60% and this  reinforces the notion that nutrients in our diet such as those from mushrooms, like ergothioneine, are important for increasing health span and in this case preventing the  development of mild cognitive impairment.


 so then the next question may be what are the dietary estimates of ergothioneine how does that correlate with human longevity because after all ergothioneine is considered a longevity vitamin so is there data or any suggestions to show that it's actually corelated with human longevity?


Americans are estimated to consume based on the diet much less ergothioneine compared to people from certain European countries like Finland, France, Ireland  and .

As a comparison, Americans take in about 1 milligram of ergothioneine a day while Italians take in almost 5 milligrams a day.  


A dosage of 5 to 10 milligrams per serving or up to 30 milligrams a day seems to be a good level.

5 milligrams of ergothioneine is approximate to one serving of mushrooms depending on the type you eat.

You can also buy ergothioneine in a supplement form.


If you want to follow the research here are some links:

https://www.nature.com/articles/d4247... https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/1... https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti... https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/... https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38036...