A current study led by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed that regular tea drinkers have much better arranged brain regions– and this is related to healthy cognitive function– compared to non-tea drinkers. The research study team made this discovery after examining neuroimaging data of 36 older grownups.
“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,” explained team leader Assistant Professor Feng Lei, who is from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
The research was carried out together with collaborators from the University of Essex and University of Cambridge, and the findings were released in scientific journal Aging on 14 June 2019.
Benefits of routine consumption of tea
Previous studies have actually demonstrated that tea consumption is beneficial to human health, and the positive results include mood improvement and cardiovascular disease avoidance. In fact, outcomes of a longitudinal research study led by Asst Prof Feng which was published in 2017 showed that everyday usage of tea can reduce the threat of cognitive decline in older persons by 50 percent.
Following this discovery, Asst Prof Feng and his group further checked out the direct result of tea on brain networks.
The research group hired 36 adults aged 60 and above, and collected information about their health, lifestyle, and psychological well-being. The elderly participants also needed to go through neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The study was performed from 2015 to 2018.
Upon analysing the individuals’ cognitive performance and imaging results, the research team discovered that people who took in either green tea, oolong tea, or black tea a minimum of 4 times a week for about 25 years had brain areas that were adjoined in a more effective method.
“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,” explained Asst Prof Feng.
He added, “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.”
Next step in research study
As cognitive performance and brain organisation are elaborately associated, more research study is needed to much better comprehend how functions like memory emerge from brain circuits, and the possible interventions to better preserve cognition throughout the aging procedure. Asst Prof Feng and his team plan to analyze the impacts of tea as well as the bioactive compounds in tea can have on cognitive decline.