Many people who drink tea regularly do so because of how it helps them to stay alert and active. A new study suggests that it may do more than that by also improving brain health.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found in a neuroimaging study they carried out that tea drinking may be good for the brain. They observed that older people who drank tea regularly had better-organized brain regions than non-tea drinkers.
When brain regions are better organized, it can help promote healthy cognitive function. This can assist in guarding against age-related cognitive decline.
Lead researcher Dr. Feng Lei said results from the study provided the “first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure.”
Lei, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine of the NUS, revealed the findings suggest that regular tea intake offers protection against issues with brain organization, as a result of aging.
The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers from the University of Essex and University of Cambridge. It was published in a June 2019 edition of the journal Aging.
How regular tea drinking helps
The scientists recruited 36 individuals for their study. The subjects were adults, who were 60 years of age or older.
Prior to the current study, researchers had shown in previous studies that tea drinking offers benefits to human health, including brain and heart health. Lei and his team reported in a 2017 longitudinal study that drinking tea daily could cut the risk of cognitive decline by half in older individuals.
The more recent study, which ran from 2015 to 2018, built on knowledge from the earlier ones. Researcher collected data about the lifestyle, health and mental welfare of the adult subjects. They carried out magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological tests on these participants.
What the researchers found from their analysis was that drinking tea regularly promoted more efficient connections of brain regions. They observed these effects in participants who consumed tea (green, black, or oolong) a minimum of four times per week for 25 years.
Feng used the analogy of road traffic to explain what the findings meant.
“Consider brain regions as destinations, while the connections between brain regions are roads,” he said. “When a road system is better organised, the movement of vehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses less resources.”
The team leader said, in like manner, information processing becomes more efficient when connections between brain regions are better structured.
Feng stated that the results from their recent study somewhat corroborated their earlier findings. They show that improved brain organization is what brings about positive effects from drinking tea regularly.
There is need now to further understand the complex relationship between brain organization and cognitive performance. This could provide more knowledge on how memory and other functions originate from brain circuits.
Further research may also lead to development of interventions that can prevent or slow age-related cognitive decline.
Feng and his team have plans to further investigate the effects of tea on cognitive function in the future. They hope to examine the possible effects of bioactive compounds in tea on cognitive decline.