Drinking tea improves brain health, NUS scientists find

Drinking tea improves brain health, NUS scientists find

FILE PHOTO: A cup of tea and plate of biscuits are photographed in London
FILE PHOTO: A cup of tea and plate of biscuits are photographed in London June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File Photo

SINGAPORE: Are you a regular tea drinker? You might have better brain efficiency compared to non-tea drinkers, a study from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has found.

By looking at the brain imaging data of older adults, researchers found that those who consumed tea at least four times a week had brain regions that were connected in a more efficient way, NUS said in a news release on Thursday (Sep 12).

The research team recruited 36 adults aged 60 and above, and gathered data about their health, lifestyle and psychological well-being. They also underwent neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the study that was conducted from 2015 to 2018. 

The results found that those 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 connected more efficiently.

Team leader Assistant Professor Feng Lei, from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said the results suggest that drinking tea regularly can protect the brain from age-related decline.

“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. 

"Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be performed more efficiently,” Asst Prof Feng said.

Feng Lei tea NUS National University of Singapore brain health
A research team led by Asst Prof Feng Lei from the NUS Department of Psychological Medicine found that those who consume tea at least four times a week have better brain efficiency. (Photo: National University of Singapore)

Previous studies have shown that tea intake is beneficial to human health, and the positive effects include mood improvement and cardiovascular disease prevention.

Another study led by Asst Prof Feng, which was published in 2017, showed that daily consumption of tea can reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older people by 50 per cent.

"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 organisation brought about by preventing disruption to interregional connections,” he said.

The research, carried out with collaborators from the University of Essex and the University of Cambridge, was published in scientific journal Aging on Jun 14.

According to the press release, the next step in the research is to understand how functions like memory emerge from brain circuits, and the possible interventions to better preserve cognition during the ageing process. 

Asst Prof Feng and his team plan to examine how tea and its bioactive compounds can affect cognitive decline.

Source: CNA/aa(hm)

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