On any given day, more than 158 million Americans are drinking tea, and if that’s your daily habit, you could be helping your brain.
Regularly drinking a cuppa (or three) of tea — green or black — may cut the risk of dementia among older adults by 50 percent, new research by the National University of Singapore suggests.
Findings from the new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, also show that for those who are genetically at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, regular tea consumption may cut their risk by 86 percent.
Earlier research, including studies in Norway, China and the United States, has linked drinking tea with better cognitive performance and a lower risk of cognitive decline. The Singapore study looked at both green and black tea consumption, as well as tea’s effect on people with the APOE e4 gene, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
The research team studied the tea-drinking habits of 957 healthy Chinese adults age 55 and older from 2003 to 2005 and then tested their cognitive function every two years until 2010.
What they found is that regular tea drinkers (those who drank at least a cup, and up to three or more cups, a day) had the most benefits in terms of brain health. The benefits were especially strong in those with the APOE e4 gene, according to the study.
Both green and black tea were protective, but they need to be brewed from tea leaves, either loose or in tea bags, lead author Feng Lei, assistant professor at the university’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said in an email. The results don’t apply to fruit or herbal teas.
Tea leaves contain flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potentials that may protect the brain from vascular damage. Ready-to-drink teas made from powder, on the other hand, have only a minuscule amount of the flavonoids of brewed tea, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Even though the study was conducted on older Chinese adults, the results could apply to other ethnic groups, as well, Feng said. He called it “a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure” that might pay off big in later life.