The chemical properties of green tea affect a whole generation of brain cells, providing benefits for memory and spatial learning, according to new research.
“Green tea is a popular beverage across the world,” said Yun Bai of the Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China.
“There has been plenty of scientific attention on its use in helping prevent cardiovascular diseases, but now there is emerging evidence that its chemical properties may impact cellular mechanisms in the brain.”
For the study, researchers focused on the organic chemical EGCG, (epigallocatechin-3 gallate) a key property of green tea.
EGCG, a known antioxidant, is theorized to provide positive effects against age-related degenerative diseases.
“We proposed that EGCG can improve cognitive function by impacting the generation of neuron cells, a process known as neurogenesis,” said Bai. “We focused our research on the hippocampus, the part of the brain which processes information from short-term to long-term memory.”
The researchers discovered that EGCG boosts the production of neural progenitor cells, which can adapt into various types of cells. Laboratory mice were then used to see if this increased cell production gave way to greater memory or spatial learning.
“We ran tests on two groups of mice, one which had imbibed EGCG and a control group,” said Bai. “First the mice were trained for three days to find a visible platform in their maze. Then they were trained for seven days to find a hidden platform.”
Overall, the EGCG treated mice found the hidden platform in less time than non-treated mice.
The researchers also found that EGCG enhances learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.
“We have shown that the organic chemical EGCG acts directly to increase the production of neural progenitor cells, both in glass tests and in mice,” concluded Bai.
“This helps us to understand the potential for EGCG, and green tea which contains it, to help combat degenerative diseases and memory loss.”
The study is published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.