In another blog, I delved into the awesome powers of green tea, and I’m returning to the subject now to fill you in on ground-breaking research from Switzerland showing that green tea is not only great for the body. This super food may also have an important influence on the brain by boosting cognitive function (your thinking power, particularly working memory) and may be worth studying as a treatment for dementia.
We’ve known for some time that the potent antioxidants in green tea are good for the heart, can protect against cancer, may reduce the risk of stroke and type 2 diabetes. There’s even some evidence to suggest that drinking green tea can help you lose weight. But if the Swiss findings about the effects of green tea extracts on the brain actually lead the way to new and effective treatment for dementia, it would be a very big deal.
Researchers at the University of Basel reported on their study showing that green tea extract increases the brain’s effective connectivity, which is another way of saying that it boosts the influence one area of the brain has over another. In the study this effect led to significant improvements in working memory.
The researchers rounded up 12 healthy young men (mean age about 24) who agreed to drink a beverage that may or may not have contained just short of an ounce of green tea extract. (The participants didn’t know whether or not they got the drink with the extract.) Then the men were asked to do a series of working memory tasks while their brain activity was monitored on MRIs. The upshot of this was that the brains of the men who got the green tea extract showed increased connectivity between two brain areas, the right superior parietal lobule and the frontal cortex and this change correlated with improved performance on the working memory tests.
Like oolong and black tea (the kind we’re most used to in the U.S.), green tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush. Unlike the other two types of tea that come from this plant, green tea is made from unoxidized leaves, which is why it is so rich in antioxidants.
The Swiss study wasn’t the first to show that green tea is good for the brain. Chinese researchers published a study in 2012 showing that the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG for short) can boost production of brain cells that benefit memory and spatial learning and might help fight age-related degenerative diseases.
You can drink three cups of green tea daily for the sake of your body and your brain (three cups have been shown to have a beneficial effect on DNA). Green tea does contain caffeine: one cup contains 24 to 40 milligrams compared to anywhere from 95 to 200 milligrams in a cup of regular coffee).