Drinking tea could save your brain from old-age decline, NUS-led study finds

Go ahead, take that tea break. Your brain will thank you in more ways than one.

Don’t diss tea drinking as an old lady hobby – it could very well be the thing keeping you sharp in your golden years.

Four researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), University of Cambridge and University of Essex have recently published findings that regular tea consumption could reduce mental deterioration in old age.

Dr Feng Lei, an assistant professor in NUS’ Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and one of the paper’s authors, previously discovered that daily tea consumption could halve the risk of cognitive decline among the elderly.

Feng – who led the new study, according to NUS – said it contained the world’s “first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure.”

The researchers hired 36 participants aged 60 and above with similar education levels for the study.

Fifteen drank green tea, oolong tea, or black tea at least four times a week for the past 25 years, while 21 rarely or never drank tea.

Participants’ health, lifestyle, and psychological well-being were then tracked between 2015 and 2018.

Analysis of their neuropsychological tests and MRI scans revealed that regular tea drinkers had better organised brain regions than non-drinkers, the paper said.

Those who drank tea had better-connected brain regions, which was associated with slower brain ageing. Their brains’ default mode network – which is often involved in ageing and mental disease – also benefitted from stronger functional connectivity.

In addition, tea-drinkers’ brains also had more symmetric connections between hemispheres, and resembled a middle-aged person’s brain more than an elderly person’s.

In the paper, the scientists said the anti-aging benefits of tea came from catechin, a natural antioxidant that boosts the brain’s memory and reasoning functions.

They added that their research showed drinking tea could be a simple lifestyle choice that greatly benefits brain health.

Asst Prof Feng and his team plan to examine the effects of tea as well as the bioactive compounds in tea can have on cognitive decline.

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