New research has found, for the first time, evidence to suggest that drinking tea could have a positive effect on the structure of the brain, possibly helping to protect against cognitive decline as we age.
Led by researchers from the National University of Singapore along with the University of Essex and University of Cambridge, UK, the new study looked at 36 healthy participants over the age of 60. The participants were classified into two groups according to how much they drank green tea, oolong tea, and black tea around age 45 and now.
All participants underwent neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure their cognitive functioning and look at their brain structure.
The researchers also gathered data on their health, lifestyle and psychological well-being.
The findings showed that those who drank green tea, oolong tea or black tea at least four times a week for about 25 years had better organised brain regions — which is associated with healthy cognitive function — compared to non-tea drinkers.
“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 organisation,” commented team leader Assistant Professor Feng Lei.
“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 organised, 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 Lei.
A previous study by Lei also showed that daily tea drinking appears to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults by 50%.
“We have shown in our previous studies that tea drinkers had better cognitive function as compared to non-tea drinkers.
“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 organisation brought about by preventing disruption to interregional connections,” he added.