SINGAPORE — Drinking tea as a senior citizen — especially those at higher risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s — could help prevent serious mental decline, a new study finds.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore looked at 957 Chinese individuals who were 55 years of age or older in a longitudinal study, hoping to be able to determine whether regular consumption of tea among this demographic was linked to lessened symptoms of cognitive decline and impairment.
The study’s findings were rather promising: those who drank tea daily reduced their risk of cognitive decline by 50 percent. Participants who carried the gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease saw a diminished risk of cognitive impairment by up to 86 percent.
This finding held regardless of the type of tea that one drank— e.g. black, green, oolong. As long as the tea leaves had been freshly brewed, consuming tea was found to help protect the brain.
Despite “tea [being] one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world,” its tremendous health benefits are often overlooked, argues lead researcher Feng Lei.
“While the study was conducted on Chinese elderly, the results could apply to other races as well. Our findings have important implications for dementia prevention,” he says in a university news release.
Examining tea’s potential to treat cognitive decline is promising as “effective pharmacological therapy for neurocognitive disorders such as dementia remains elusive and current prevention strategies are far from satisfactory,” Feng adds.
The researchers posit that the compounds in tea that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties— such as catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins, and L-theanine— may be responsible for “protecting the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration.”
While some cognitive decline and impairment can be linked to genetic factors, environmental factors have also been found to play a substantial role.
Further research could be done to determine whether these same findings would hold in other demographics— i.e. varied ethnicities and age groups.
“Our understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited so we do need more research to find out definitive answers,” says Feng.
The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging in December 2016.