We need to talk about the mushrooms

Back up to when you said, 45% less chance of cancer? Also: near-death. And 7 other things worth your time.

Two things to talk about today: living longer, and near-death experiences.

First, the living longer part—or at least not getting sick.

Last week, I linked to a study in the “7 other things” section at the end of one of the newsletters. I think it’s worth another look. Bottom line up front:

A review of 17 cancer studies published from 1966 to 2020 and encompassing data from more than 19,500 cancer patients found that people who ate 18 grams of mushrooms every day—that’s about 1/8 to 1/4 cup—were 45% less likely to develop cancer—any type of cancer.

If you’re like me—a bit of neophyte in this area—you might ask yourself:

Wait, why did all these cancer studies track the patients’ consumption of mushrooms, of all things?

The answer, of course, is that it’s not novel to suggest mushrooms might be associated with less cancer risk (although the 45% figure is striking).

Here’s Djibril M. Ba, a graduate student in epidemiology at Penn State College of Medicine, who was involved with the study:

“Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of ergothioneine, which is a unique and potent antioxidant and cellular protector. Replenishing antioxidants in the body may help protect against oxidative stress and lower the risk of cancer.”

Not for nothing, the South China Morning Post also noted in its report on this study that Chinese medicine practitioners have used mushrooms for centuries as a treatment for illness, including lung disease.

Anyway, I really like mushrooms, so I’ll pack this one away with my collection of scientific studies that suggest things I like to do anyway are actually good for you—even if moderation is usually the key.

Examples we’ve cited here over the last year or so:

  • Reasonable amounts of “high levels of physical activity” (30 minutes of jogging each day for women, or 40 minutes of jogging each day for men) can slow the aging process within cells, matching the natural age progression of people 9 years younger.

  • People who drink a glass of wine every day were substantially less likely to spend time in hospitals—for any reason. (I was thinking I’d written this here, but I wrote it for Inc.com.)

  • Drinking a ton of coffee each day—as much as 8 cups—led to a 10 to 15% lower rate of death from any cause, according to a longevity study of 500,000 people over 10 years.

  • Finally, the one that sparks skepticism: Eating chocolate, at least in moderation, results in lower observed rates of coronary artery disease.

Anyway, I couldn’t have it on my conscience if one of my readers also liked mushrooms, but didn’t eat them because I didn’t sufficiently highlight the study. Bon appetit.

Now, near-death experiences.

In 1988, a truck driver named Al Sullivan was rushed to the hospital for emergency bypass surgery. He survived, thankfully, but afterward, he talked about an odd experience.

He’d remembered vividly that he had floated above the operating table, looking down, watching his own operation:

“I was lying on a table covered with light blue sheets and I was cut open so as to expose my chest cavity. In this cavity I was able to see my heart.

I was able to see my surgeon, who just moments ago had explained to me what he was going to do during my operation. He appeared to be somewhat perplexed.

I thought he was flapping his arms as if he was trying to fly.”

Sullivan was explaining all this later to Dr. Bruce Greyson, a professor at the University of Virginia who has spent decades studying near-death experiences. So Greyson tracked down the surgeon who’d operated on Sullivan.

And the surgeon explained that he did indeed have an odd habit. After “scrubbing in” for surgery, he always made a point of keeping his hands close to his chest, to keep them clean.

As a result, he’d gesture or point for things he needed with his elbows. He looked, he admitted, like a bird. Sullivan—while under anesthesia with his eyes taped shut, to say nothing of having his chest split open—had supposedly been able to see it all.

Dr. Greyson, who wrote a book called After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal About Life and Beyond, believes that 1 in 20 people have had a near-death experience like this.

Maybe you believe in that sort of thing; maybe you don’t. But if you’d like to find out more, I’ll be interviewing Dr. Greyson tomorrow as part of the next "Crowd-Sourced Video Interview” series.

Want to sign up? Here’s the link. We’ll go live Thursday (tomorrow) June 10, at 1 pm ET.

Sign Up for the Video Interview

7 other things worth your time

  • Jeff Bezos paid no federal income taxes for at least two years, and paid a much lower percentage than most people in other years, despite amassing billions in wealth, according to “confidential tax records” obtained by ProPublica. Elon Musk pulled off the same feat in 2018. Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Carl Icahn, and George Soros did, too, according to the report. As a former tax lawyer, I think I know the arguments these billionaires and their representatives would make in opposition—but still, if true, this is a pretty stunning reveal. (ProPublica)

  • “Dozens of websites went down briefly around the globe Tuesday, including CNN, The New York Times, and Britain’s government home page, after an outage at the cloud computing service Fastly, illustrating how vital a small number of behind-the-scenes companies have become to running the internet.” (AP)

  • A 28-year-old woman swimming in a lagoon in Mexico was attacked by a crocodile; her twin sister jumped in and fought the crocodile off by punching it, saving her life. Both women were injured; the one who was first attacked is in a medically induced coma. (Newsweek)

  • Coronavirus vaccines may be available in the fall for US children as young as 6 months, drugmakers say. Pfizer and Moderna are testing their vaccines in children under 12 years, and are expected to have results in hand for children aged 5 through 11 by September. (NYT, $)

  • Adults can claim a complimentary joint of marijuana in Washington State this week when they receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced Monday that the promotion, called "Joints for Jabs," was effective immediately and would run through July 12. (ABC News)

  • Hundreds of suspected members of criminal networks have been arrested worldwide after being duped into using an encrypted communications platform secretly run by the FBI to hatch their plans for alleged crimes including drug smuggling and money laundering. In the global sting operation dubbed “Operation Trojan Shield,” an international coalition of law-enforcement agencies led by the FBI covertly monitored the encrypted communications service Anom, which purported to offer a feature cherished in the criminal underworld: total secrecy. (WSJ, $)

  • Apple paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to an Oregon woman after repair techs the company had contracted published nude photos of her from her phone on her Facebook. The case highlights the personal nature of our devices and the need for Apple to relinquish its repair monopoly and let us repair our own stuff. (Vice)

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