Despite great interest and numerous high-quality drug trials, an effective pharmaceutical treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, both of which fall under the umbrella of cognitive decline, has yet to be identified. The best available treatment options are focused on prevention, and even most of those strategies leave much to be desired. But that may be about to change.
A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging found that drinking tea can cut your risk of cognitive impairment in half. For individuals with a genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the reduction of risk could be lowered by as much as 86%!
A Simple, Effective Way to Prevent Dementia?
“Our findings have important implications for dementia prevention,” stated lead author Assistant Professor Feng Lei of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. “The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure—daily tea drinking—can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life.”
Feng and a team of researchers conducted a longitudinal study involving 957 Chinese seniors, all of whom were 55 years of age or older. They found that regular consumption of tea lowered participants’ risk of cognitive decline by 50%. Participants who carried the APOE e4 gene, which indicates a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s, saw their risk of developing cognitive impairment lowered by as much as 86%.
Analyzing the Neuroprotective Benefits of Tea
Feng and the research team collected tea consumption information from participants between 2003 and 2005. At two year intervals until 2010, they assessed participants’ cognitive function using standardized tests. They also tracked lifestyle factors … medical conditions … and physical and social activities and used statistical models to controls for those potentially confounding factors and ensure the findings were as strong and precise as possible.
The team believes that the benefits associated with tea consumption come from the numerous bioactive compounds found in tea leaves, including…
They found that the compounds exhibited anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as additional bioactive properties that appear to prevent vascular damage to the brain and neurodegeneration. “Our understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited,” Feng noted, “so we do need more research to find out definite answers.”
Green, Black, or Oolong—It’s All Good
Feng and the team plan to conduct follow-up studies that will increase their understanding of the impact tea, including a rigorous investigation of the effects of the bioactive compounds found in the leaves on cognitive decline. They also intend to examine how other elements of a traditional Chinese diet impact cognitive health in aging.
One thing they’ve determined already is that the neuroprotective effects of drinking tea are not linked to any specific type of tea. By brewing up a cup of your favorite green, black, or oolong tea, you’re infusing your cells with protection from cognitive decline associated with aging.