The exact cause of most neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, remains unknown. However, researchers have extensively explored the possible methods of treating and preventing such diseases. Successful treatment remains ambiguous, though many studies suggest drugs and pharmacological therapy may eventually show promise. Recent preventative research for neurocognitive disorders aims at linking possible inexpensive and simple lifestyle changes to prevention.
Recently, professors at the University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine have linked daily consumption of tea to preventing dementia by 50 percent. The positive effect of tea consumption on preventing cognitive decline was increased in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. In cases of APOE e4 carriers, a gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease, daily tea drinking decreased cognitive impairment by 86 percent. This certainly is not the first study to suggest that tea is great for brain health. Although many recent scientific discoveries have advocated the positive effects of green tea, this study found that all tea produced the same effect of reducing neural degeneration.
The study tested 957 Chinese men and women aged 55 and older. Researchers measured tea consumption for two years. They measured cognitive function using a standardized tool for seven years. Confounding factors such as physical activity and medical conditions were controlled in statistical models. Head researcher Professor Feng Lei suspected that the results, although conducted on Chinese elderly, most likely applies to all races.
Other previous studies have found that tea protects the brain. Scientists at the University of Leeds found that treating proteins with green tea stopped amyloid clumping, which is a believed mechanism that causes brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients to die. Additionally, a 2016 Spanish study found that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a compound in green tea, improved brain function in those with Down Syndrome. Though the exact biological mechanisms of many of these studies are unknown, Fein proposed that the bioactive compounds in tea leaves such as, theaflavins, catechins and L-theanine, produce anti- inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the brain, which in turn, protect the brain from neurodegeneration and possible vascular damage.
Lei believes this study could have huge implications because tea is the most widely drank beverage in the world. While the field of brain science requires many more discoveries, drinking tea regularly is a good habit because it has almost no harmful side effects. Lei and his team are planning more comprehensive studies that explore the impact of traditional Asian diets on cognitive health in aging populations. The team also plans to repeat the previous study on a more diverse population and include randomized control groups. Researchers hope to identify the chemical processes and mechanisms that make tea an effective brain protectant.