February 06, 2009

Is Green Tea a Brain Food?

Can green tea prevent or ease Alzheimer's disease, that devastating disease that can rob you of your ability to learn, reason, communicate, remember and carry out daily activities? Well, no one's saying that yet. But recent studies of the effects of green tea's catechins on animal brains are intriguing:
* Delayed brain aging
A study of mice genetically programmed to age rapidly found that taking in green tea catechins on a daily basis prevented oxidative damage to the DNA in their brain cells, slowed memory loss and delayed brain aging.¹

* Reversed mental deterioration
Another study of rapidly-aging mice measured the extent of their brain degeneration over time.² Mice that received green or oolong tea as their sole source of drinking fluid for 16 weeks reduced degenerative changes to their brains and actually reversed their mental deterioration. (These mice actually got smarter!)

* Improved memory-related learning
Long term administration of green tea catechins to young rats lowered levels of damaging free radicals in a part of the brain that's vital to memory processing.³ The catechin-consuming rats also experienced improved memory-related learning ability, compared to those that didn't receive the catechins.

* Less buildup of plaque
Finally, mice specially bred to develop Alzheimer's disease developed up to 54% less beta-amyloid buildup in their brains when they were given daily injections of the green tea catechin EGCg.4 Beta-amyloid plaques are believed to be a major cause of the brain cell death and dissue loss seen in Alzheimer's disease.

Of course, the big question still looms: Does green tea have the same effects in humans as it does in mice and rats? While few human studies of green tea's effects on brain function exist, one published in 2006 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition offers hope.5 Researchers gathered information from 1,003 Japanese men and women age 70+, measured their cognitive function, and tallied the frequency of their green tea consumption. After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that, A higher consumption of green tea is associated with a lower prevalence of cognitive impairmenmt in humans." In other words, the more green tea they drank the less likely they were to have problems related to thinking and memory.

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