Succeeding where Big Pharma failed: Plant-based nutrients in mushrooms and tea found to delay cognitive decline linked to Alzheimer’s

Natural News – July 7, 2020 – Divina Ramirez

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) identified an antioxidant in mushrooms that can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the study reported that adults aged 60 and above who consumed more than two portions of mushroom each week for six years had a lower risk of developing MCI, a known precursor of dementia.

The researchers believe that this effect stems from the strong antioxidant properties of ergothioneine, an active compound found in all varieties of mushrooms, including golden mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shiitake and white button, all of which were included in the study.

What is mild cognitive impairment?

MCI refers to the stage between normal cognitive decline and dementia. Older adults with MCI are prone to bouts of forgetfulness. MCI also affects important cognitive functions such as language, attention and visuospatial ability, but not to the same extent as conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease do.

Unlike those with dementia, older adults with MCI may not yet exhibit apparent signs of their condition. Many are actually able to perform basic activities with little to no support.

MCI remains an active area of research. No drugs, therapies or treatments have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for MCI at present. (Related: How does acupuncture reduce mild cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s patients?)

There is also no accepted mainstream cure for most progressive forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Mushrooms and MCI

Researchers at NUS found that the weekly consumption of more than two portions of cooked mushrooms for six years led to a reduced prevalence of MCI in adults aged 60 years and above.

To understand the relationship between mushroom intake and MCI risk, the researchers used data from 663 participants who were part of the Diet and Healthy Aging (DaHA) study, a prospective cohort study in Singapore. These participants neither had dementia nor showed any signs of MCI.

The researchers then looked at the participants’ mushroom intake over a period of six years. Some of the most common mushroom varieties in Singapore were featured in the experiment. The researchers defined a portion of mushrooms as three-quarters of a cup or 150 grams (g), while two portions were equivalent to half a plate.

At the end of the experiment, they found a reduced prevalence of MCI among participants who ate more than two portions of mushroom each week. They attributed this effect to the antioxidant properties of ergothioneine, a compound found in several mushroom varieties.

The researchers also posited that other compounds in mushrooms may also have protective effects against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers concluded that mushrooms are rich in neuroprotective agents like ergothioneine that can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

Tea consumption linked to better cognitive performance as well

In an earlier study, one of the lead authors, Lei Feng, sought to understand the effects of tea consumption on cognitive function.

Together with his team, Feng looked at the tea consumption of 716 Chinese adults aged 55 years or older, who reported drinking different varieties, including black tea, oolong tea and green tea.

The team then assessed the participants’ cognitive performance using neuropsychological tests that evaluated attention, memory, executive function and information processing speed.

They found that tea consumption improved all of these cognitive aspects. Interestingly, the brain-boosting effects they observed were not restricted to a specific kind of tea.

Feng and his colleagues believe that the cognitive benefits of tea consumption may be due to certain antioxidants present in tea leaves. These include L-theanine and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG, in particular, is known for its protective effects against cognitive deterioration and MCI.

Based on their findings, Feng and his team concluded that tea consumption is linked to better cognitive performance in older adults.

Read more articles about ergothioneine, EGCG and other beneficial plant compounds at

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China topped list of organic exporters to the EU in 2019

Natural Products Global – June 30, 2020 – Jim Manson

China was the biggest exporter of organic agri-food products to the EU during 2019, followed by Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Ukraine and Turkey, according to new analysis released by the European Commission.

Colombia and Kazakhstan entered the top ten suppliers for the first time.

The Netherlands was the single biggest importer of organic imports into the EU (32%). Other important importing EU Member States of organic products include Germany (13 %), the UK (12 %) and Belgium (11 %). Organic imports in Member States which joined the EU after 2004 remain minor at slightly above 3 %.

The ten most imported product categories represented 82 % of total organic import volumes in 2019. First came tropical fruit, nuts and spices with 27% (0.9 million tonnes), followed by oilcakes (mainly for animal feed) with 12 % (0.4 million t), followed by cereals other than wheat and rice and by beet and cane sugar (both 7 %, 0.2 million t).

Overall, organic import levels remained stable in 2019, amounting to 

3.24 million t of organic agri-food products. Commodities represented 54% of 2019 imports, a slight decrease compared to the previous year. The share of imports of other primary products increased to 38 %.

For some of the products categories surveyed, organic imports represent a significant share of total imports. Of olive oil imports in the EU, for example, almost 20 % are estimated to be organic. For the other product categories, organic imports represent up to a maximum of 10 % of total imports, and for the large majority less than 5 %. Overall, organic agri-food imports are estimated to represent about 2 % of total volume of agri-food imports.


Nestlé’s decision to cut KitKat’s ties with Fairtrade ‘profoundly disappointing’

Natural Products Global – June 23, 2020 – Jim Manson

Nestlé UK and Ireland has announced that its  KitKat brand will source Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa from October 2020, in the process abandoning its 10-year involvement with the Fairtrade label. 

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, called the decision “profoundly disappointing” and urged Nestlé to think again and “keep KitKat Fairtrade”.

Real lifeline
In a statement, the Fairtrade Foundation said the move would mean a loss of almost £2 million (£1.95 million) in Fairtrade Premium each year for co-operatives in Côte d’Ivoire, Fiji and Malawi, representing 27,000 small scale producers – income, it says, that is a “real lifeline for some of the world’s poorest farmers”.

The organisation says Nestlé’s decision could not have come at a worse time. The Covid-19 crisis has created huge disruption to income for many of the world’s poorest farmers and smallholders. Amid the disruption, the Fairtrade premium has helped Fairtrade scheme farmers protect their income and enabled them to buy vital sanitation products and PPE. 

Writing on behalf of Ivorian cocoa farmers, Atse Ossey Francis, chairman of the board of directors of the Ivorian Fair Trade Network, said: ‘It is with deep regret and deep concern that we have learned that after proudly producing cocoa for KitKat in the UK for a decade, small cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire will no longer enjoy the benefits of selling their cocoa on Fairtrade terms. Nestlé is one of the leading buyers of Fairtrade certified cocoa through its KitKat brand and we are grateful for all this decade of partnership where we have contributed to the success of Nestlé. A non-Fairtrade trade relationship means regression and continued poverty”. 

But Nestlé said that the development formed part of a ‘harmonisation” of certification of its confectionery products, adding that it would “provide financial support to enable Fairtrade farmers to certify their farms to the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard as well if they wish”.

Simon Billington, global technical manager for  Nestlé  Confectionery said:  “Our expanded partnership with the Rainforest Alliance underlines our commitment to sustainable cocoa sourcing throughout our global supply chain.

“We are aware that the move will have an impact on some farmers, and we are working hard to mitigate this. Nestlé will be maintaining the same level of cocoa spend for the 2020-21 season. We will be investing in a series of initiatives to support farmers and our cocoa growing communities over the next two years, including £1 million to develop an industry-first living income pilot and a further £500,000 on community projects.”


Reusable containers safe during Covid-19 pandemic, 100-strong group of scientists insist

Natural Products Global – June 23, 2020 – Jim Manson

More than 100 scientists from around the world this week signed a statement to reassure the public that reusable containers are safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amid fears that the environmental battle to reduce single-use plastic waste is losing ground over fears of virus contamination, and that the plastic industry is deliberately using these fears to mount an attack on the zero-waste movement, the 119 scientists from 18 countries say reuseable containers do not increase the chance of virus transmission

The scientists say in their statement: “Reuse and refill systems are an essential part of addressing the plastic pollution crisis and moving away from a fossil fuel-based economy. They can create jobs and help build local economies. The COVID-19 global pandemic has triggered a discussion of how to ensure the safety of reusable systems in a public health crisis. Based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, ​it is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene​.​ ​Below are the key facts to keep in mind.”

Noting that best available science suggests that the main route of virus transmission is person-to-person, the scientists say that when it comes to contact with surfaces “single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables, and causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded”. 

The group makes a series of recommendations on how cafes and food retail businesses can minimise the risk to staff and customers, including enhanced hygiene and “contact-free systems for customers’ personal bags and cups”. 

Charlotte K Williams, a professor of chemistry at Oxford University and one of the signatories, told The Guardian: “I hope we can come out of the Covid-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment.

“In terms of the general public’s response to the Covid crisis, we should make every attempt to avoid over-consumption of single-use plastics, particularly in applications like packaging.”


Mexico Announces Phase-Out and Ban on Glyphosate Herbicides

Sustainable Pulse – June 27, 2020

The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Mexico’s Environment Ministry, has announced that glyphosate-based herbicides will be phased out of use in the country by 2024 to protect human health and the environment.

SEMARNAT announced late Thursday that it has created a roadmap for the gradual reduction of the use of glyphosate in Mexico until it reaches a total ban in 2024.

“Given the scientific evidence of glyphosate toxicity, demonstrating the impacts on human health and the environment, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) has taken important steps to gradually reduce the use of this chemical until it achieves a total ban in 2024.

Dr. Adelita San Vicente Tello, Director General of the Primary Sector and Renewable Natural Resources at SEMARNAT, announced the news after participating in the conversation Why will Mexico join the ban on glyphosate? organized by the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) Academic Observatory of Society, Environment and Institutions.

Damián Marino, from the National University of La Plata, Argentina; Emmanuel González, of the Metropolitan Autonomous University, Xochimilco; Fernando Bejarano, of the Action Network on Pesticides and Alternatives in Mexico (Rapam), and Leticia López of the National Association of Rural Marketing Companies (ANEC), all supported the strong decision that SEMARNAT has made on this issue.

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San Vicente Tello explained that the issue of pesticides has provoked a great struggle for several years, and now SEMARNAT, with Victor M. Toledo at the helm, is taking determined steps towards the transformation of the country’s agri-food system in order to make it “safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly”, as part of which it has identified the gradual reduction of glyphosate with alternative methods as critical.

Among the actions that have already been taken, she recalled that in November last year, under the precautionary principle for the prevention of environmental risks, SEMARNAT stopped the import of a thousand tons of glyphosate.

She also explained that the Committee on Health, Food, Environment and Competitiveness (GISAMAC) was also established in 2019 with the aim of having a national vision for major health and environmental problems. The Ministry recently gave its full support to the policy introduced by the Committee for the urgent attention of environmental issues for the benefit of the health and well-being of the Mexican population.

San Vicente Tello said that, together with the National Council of Science and Technology, she is analyzing alternatives to the use of glyphosate-herbicides for large-scale agricultural production, as there are many weed management experiences with methods that farmers themselves and indigenous communities have applied for thousands of years.

In addition, government education campaigns are being prepared with different medias, such as infographics and videos that will be translated into several languages and will include data and independent scientific sources on the effects of glyphosate-based herbicides on the environment and health, with the purpose of alerting the population to the risks involved from their use. During and after these campaigns the general public and specific communities can draw their own conclusions.

Finally, San Vicente Tello reiterated that in the face of this problem we all have to act, because “beyond productivity, there is human and environmental health”.