As we continue to unpack all of the physiological factors that inform cognitive decline later in life, salves of antiquity are finally receiving academic articulation.
The purported healing properties linked to green tea date all the way back to 2737 B.C. Legend has it, the mythical Emperor Shennong mistakenly drank water with a dead leaf in it. Finding the taste “refreshing,” green tea was anon made available to the wealthiest elite in China. In 800 AD, author and tea master, Lu Yu, penned the first cultivation and ingredient tea book, aptly titled “The Classic of Tea.” The herbologists of yore lacked the means to explicitly identify the benefits they observed that we now know are primarily consequenced by anti-oxidants, little disease banishing compounds especially abundant in green and black teas.
A new study appearing in the journal Aging, comprised of three years of data, enthusiastically intimates the following: Habitually drinking tea over the course of many years positively contributes to a “well-connected” brain later in life.
“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,” explained Asst Prof Feng Lei who co-authored the new paper.
Bioactive disease fighters
After recruiting 36 participants, aged 60 and above back in 2015, the researchers investigated relevant habits adopted by each subject over the course of three years; namely the general state of their health, their psychological wellbeing and their dietary lifestyle choices. Participants that reported drinking black tea, oolong tea or green tea at least four times a day for 25 years evidenced brain regions important to cognitive function that were more efficiently connected.
“Take the analogy of road traffic as an example – consider brain regions as destinations, while the connections between brain regions are roads. When a road system is better organized, the movement of vehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses less resources. Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be performed more efficiently,” explained Asst Prof Feng.
It has long since been established that tea leaves are rich in vital bioactive chemicals, such as catechins, theaflavins, theaflavins, and L-theanine. The anti-inflammatory properties of these compounds protect our brains from vascular detraction and neurodegeneration. Over time these two are strong predictors for dementia-related illnesses. The importance of this study highlights how accessible and inexpensive cognitive upkeep can be.
Dr. Feng, concludes, “Our current results relating to brain network indirectly support our previous findings by showing that the positive effects of regular tea drinking are the result of improved brain organization brought about by preventing disruption to interregional connections.”