Can drinking tea help keep your brain strong?

March 22, 2017 Mike Francis

Question: So a new study looked into the benefits of drinking tea?

Answer: Yes. It was a study out of Singapore that looked at 957 Chinese people aged 55 and older over a period of seven years.

Q: And what did it show?

A: Researchers found, as they put it, “a cup of tea a day can keep dementia away,” especially for those who have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

Q: How can they be so sure?

A: Researchers started with a group of people they called “cognitively intact,” then continued to track how many suffered neurocognitive disorders for the next seven years. They found a clear association between drinking tea and a lower risk of disorders.

Q: Dementia takes a huge toll on families and is very costly to manage. Does this research have implications that address that?

A: Assistant professor Feng Lei of the National University of Singapore’s medical school believes it does. “Despite high quality drug trials, effective pharmacological therapy for neurocognitive disorders such as dementia remains elusive and current prevention strategies are far from satisfactory,” he says. “Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life.”

Q: What makes tea so magical?

A: Researchers say the bioactive compounds in tea leaves, specifically catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins and L-theanine, have anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant potential. These properties can help protect the brain.

Q: Why hasn’t anyone studied these properties before?

A: They have, but for different reasons. For example, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that catechins from tea lead to reduced body fat. Another study in the Journal of Nutrition found that theaflavins and catechins are equally effective antioxidants. A British manufacturing study examined the chemistry of tea in exhaustive detail. As always, new studies are built on a foundation laid by others.

Q: Does it matter what kind of tea you drink?

A: Yes. This research focused on the effects of leaf tea – that is, tea brewed from green or black leaves, or oolong tea, in which the leaves are bruised. Oregon State University has a comprehensive set of resources about the makeup and chemical effects of tea, if you’re interested in delving into this.

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