Tea drinkers seem to have better organized brain regions, which is associated with healthy cognitive function, according to a study led by Professor Feng Lei, of the National University of Singapore.
The study, involving 957 Chinese seniors aged 55 and over, found that drinking tea can improve brain efficiency.
“Our results offer the first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against age-related decline in brain organization,” said Lei.
The findings, published in the June 2019 edition of the journal Aging, found that people who consumed either green tea, oolong tea or black tea at least four times a week for about 25 years had brain regions that were interconnected in a more efficient way. With a regular habit of drinking tea, the study found that the risk of cognitive impairment in older adults was reduced by 50% and in those genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, the risk was reduced even further by 86%.
Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and the long-term benefit of tea consumption is thought to be due to bioactive compounds found in tea leaves that can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Researchers think that other bioactive properties in tea may protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration.
Lei said the findings have important implications for dementia prevention but also noted that the understanding of detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited, and more research is needed to reach definitive answers.
Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, however, remains cautious regarding the findings about tea consumption and cognitive delay.
“As lovely as it would be to discover that drinking a humble cup of tea could prevent you from developing memory and thinking problems, so far, research linking the two has been inconclusive,” Pickett said.
Though further research needs to be done, medical professionals promote this beverage for various health qualities. For instance, green tea contains the highest amount of polyphenol antioxidants, which has been linked to lowering cholesterol and aiding metabolism as well as possibly playing a role in preventing certain types of cancers or diabetes. White tea has high levels of flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Black tea has benefits of improving blood circulation, leading to lower instances of heart disease and high blood pressure.
While it is easy to incorporate more tea into your diet for possible benefits, as with any dietary supplement, you should always consult your physician before increasing your tea intake as a health measure. Because the science of tea remains inconclusive, your physician may want to discuss other preventative and/or health maintenance measures to consider.