Regular tea drinkers have better organized brain regions compared to non-tea drinkers, according to a new study led by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
In particular, participants who consumed either green tea, oolong tea, or black tea at least four times a week for about 25 years had brain regions that were interconnected in a more efficient way.
“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,” said team leader Assistant Professor Feng Lei, who is from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
The NUS researchers conducted the study with a team from the University of Essex and University of Cambridge in the U.K. They published their findings in the journal Aging.
Previous research has shown that tea consumption is beneficial to human health, and the positive effects include mood improvement and cardiovascular disease prevention. In fact, results of a 2017 study led by Feng revealed that daily consumption of tea can reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older persons by 50 percent.
Following this discovery, Feng and his team further explored the direct effect of tea on brain networks.
The research team recruited 36 adults ages 60 and older, and gathered data about their health, lifestyle, and psychological well-being. The participants underwent neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The findings reveal that participants who consumed either green tea, oolong tea, or black tea at least four times a week for about 25 years had brain regions that were interconnected in a more efficient way.
“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,” said Feng.
“Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be performed more efficiently.”
“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 organization brought about by preventing disruption to interregional connections.”
Since cognitive performance and brain organization are intricately linked, more studies are needed to better understand how functions like memory emerge from brain circuits, and to explore how to better preserve cognition during the aging process.
The research team plans to examine the effects of tea as well as how the bioactive compounds in tea impact cognitive decline.
Source: National University of Singapore