Cut your dementia risk in half by simply drinking a cup or two of tea every day. Scientists have found that the refreshing drink is not only good for your tummy but for your brain too. These benefits can be seen regardless of the variety of tea you prefer, be it green, black, or oolong. Moreover, those that are predisposed to this cognitive illness — the “dementia gene” as it were — can significantly reduce their risk of the disease by around 80 percent.
A new study, released by the National University of Singapore (NUS), concluded that the polyphenols found in the tea leaves promote cognitive health. Also, other compounds in tea leaves, such as catechins and theaflavins, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that decrease the potential for brain decline.
Dr. Feng Lei, who led the study, said: “Because tea is cheap, non-toxic and widely consumed, it has huge potential in promoting cognitive health and perhaps delaying the onset of dementia.”
Tea Time (for your brain)
Tea has been a recommended drink for anxiety and stress relief. The various scents and flavors trigger certain parts of the brain associated with relaxation. Popular media encourages this further with pictures of people smiling contently — or perhaps discussing a point in philosophy — over a steaming cup of tea. Tea has also become synonymous with wisdom.
Yet for all its assumed brain-enhancing properties, there has been limited research studying tea’s actual physiological effects. The study by the NUS provides undeniable proof that diet directly impacts mental health.
Researchers studied the lifestyle habits of 2,500 people who were aged 55 and over and looked at how much tea they drank. Participants were tested on their cognitive function. Initial conclusions validated their hypothesis: Those that drank the most tea performed better compared to those who did not. When the experiment was repeated two years later, the results were even more astounding. Those that drank the most black tea showed the least cognitive decline. They found that other factors — such as eating habits — come into play as well but there is a general consensus that drinking tea regularly keeps the brain working properly.
People who drank two to three cups daily reduced their risk of developing dementia by 55 percent. Meanwhile, taking six to ten cups a day can reduce the risk by 63 percent. These findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The mechanics are believed to work as such: Polyphenols which are abundant in tea prevent the oxidation of brain cells. Typically, aging brains show the most oxidation. This progressive decline of function makes the elderly more susceptible to brain disease. By preventing the oxidation, tea keeps brains young. Secondly, polyphenols are believed to prevent the buildup of plaque in the brain. Similar to cardiac problems caused by unwanted deposits, neural connections can become blocked. These pathways are necessary for memory and attention. Inhibited brain function can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. (RELATED: Find more news about preventing brain disorders at BRAIN.news.)
Tea vs. Coffee: The Battle of the Stimulants
Once, tea was lauded only for its diuretic and stimulant properties. Numerous studies have added more reasons to add this drink into one’s diet. It has been proven that tea can lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and even reduce blood clots in the body. With this new study, tea has taken a higher status.
Dr. Lei though is quick to mention that coffee does have its own benefits. A 2009 study found that drinking black, unsweetened coffee in midlife can reduce cognitive decline. More research is necessary to determine both drinks’ capacities for maintaining optimum cognitive function.
“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 said.