Drinking tea may improve brain health, study finds

Chelsea Ritschel

Tea-drinkers may enjoy benefits apart from caffeine boosts and relaxation, as researchers believe drinking tea could also be good for your brain.

According to a new study by the National University of Singapore (NUS), regular tea drinkers have better organised brain regions compared to non-tea drinkers.

Better organised brain regions are associated with healthy cognitive function, which protects against age-related decline.

To study the benefits of drinking tea, NUS researchers, in collaboration with the University of Essex and University of Cambridge, analysed neuroimaging data of 36 older adults aged 60 or above.

In addition to tea consumption, researchers also analysed factors about participants such as health, lifestyle and psychological well-being.

The findings, published in the scientific journal Aging, found that participants who consumed either green, oolong or black tea at least four times a week for about 25 years had brain regions that were “interconnected in a more efficient way” than those who did not drink tea.

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“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 Feng Lei, team leader and assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

To further explain the importance of functioning brain regions, Dr Feng compared brain functionality to road traffic efficiency.

“Take the analogy of road traffic as an example,” he said. “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.”

Dr Feng, who has previously published findings on the links between tea consumption and overall human health, added: “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.”

In the future, the team of researchers plans to examine the effects that tea, and bioactive compounds found in tea, have on cognitive decline.

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In addition to brain health, tea consumption, especially of green tea, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, according to Harvard Medical School.

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