Drinking tea on a regular basis improves brain health, according to a new study, which examined neuroimaging data and concluded tea drinkers have better-organized brain regions – associated with a healthy cognitive function.
Assistant Professor Feng Lei from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine’s Department of Psychological Medicine led the research alongside collaborators from the University of Essex and the University of Cambridge. The findings were published in the journal Aging.
“Our results offer the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against age-related decline in brain organization,” explained Asst Prof Feng Lei.
Previous studies showed drinking tea is beneficial for human health, with positive effects such as mood improvement and cardiovascular disease prevention. A study by Feng Lei in 2017 showed that daily consumption of tea can reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older persons by 50%.
Now, the research recruited 36 adults aged 60 and above and gathered data about their health, lifestyle, and psychological well-being. The elderly participants also had to undergo neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The study was carried out from 2015 to 2018.
The team analyzed the participants’ cognitive performance and imaging results and found that individuals 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 interconnected in a more efficient way.
“We have shown in our previous studies that tea drinkers had a 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 organization brought about by preventing disruption to interregional connections,” said Feng Lei.
Thinking about the future, Feng Lei and the team argued more research is needed to better understand how functions like memory emerge from brain circuits, and the possible interventions to better preserve cognition during the aging process. They plan to look at the effects of tea as well as the bioactive compounds in tea can have on cognitive decline.