A recent study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that normal tea drinkers have better organized brain regions compared to non-tea drinkers - and this is associated with healthy cognitive function. The research team made this discovery after examining neuroimaging data from 36 older adults.
"Our results provide the first evidence of a positive contribution of drinking tea to the brain structure and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against the age-related decline in brain organization," said team leader Assistant Professor Feng Lei, who comes from the Psychological Department Medicine at the medical school of the NUS Yong Loo Lin.
The research was carried out in collaboration with staff from the University of Essex and the University of Cambridge and the results were published in the journal Aging on June 14, 2019.
Benefits of taking tea regularly
Previous studies have shown that taking tea is beneficial to human health. The positive effects include improving mood and preventing cardiovascular diseases. In fact, results from a longitudinal study published by Asst Prof Feng in 2017 showed that daily tea consumption can reduce the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly by 50 percent.
After this discovery, Asst Prof Feng and his team investigated the direct effect of tea on networks in the brain.
The research team recruited 36 adults, ages 60 and up, and collected data on their health, lifestyle, and psychological well-being. The older participants also had to undergo neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The study was carried out from 2015 to 2018.
When analyzing the cognitive performance and imaging results of the participants, the research team found that people who consumed either green tea, oolong tea, or black tea at least four times a week for 25 years had brain regions that were more efficient with one another were connected.
"Take the analogy of road traffic as an example - consider brain regions as targets, while the connections between brain regions are streets. If a street system is better organized, the movement of vehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses less resources. Similarly, if the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be carried out more efficiently, "said Asst Prof Feng.
He added: "We have shown in our previous studies that tea drinkers have better cognitive function compared to non-tea drinkers. Our current results on the brain network indirectly support our previous results by showing that the positive effects of regular tea drinking is the result of improved brain organization that has been brought about by preventing disruption of interregional connections. "
Next step in research
Because cognitive performance and brain organization are closely related, further research is needed to better understand how functions such as memory emerge from brain cycles and to identify possible interventions to better maintain perception during the aging process can. Asst Prof. Feng and his team plan to study the effects of tea and the bioactive compounds in tea on cognitive decline.
Junhua Li, Rafael Romero-Garcia, John Suckling, Lei Feng. Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation. Aging, 2019; 11 (11): 3876 DOI: 10.18632/aging.102023