There’s nothing like a nice cup of green tea to soothe the mind and revitalize the spirit. Long considered a medicinal drink, tea can do a lot more for you than you probably realize: from protecting you against cancer to stabilizing your blood pressure, or even lowering your cholesterol.
All varieties contain varying levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a powerful compound that boosts brainpower. Recently, scientists have discovered that this compound can do much more than just help you remember your doctor’s appointment.
Green Tea Boosts Memory
In 2014, Borgwardt and his team examined the effects of 1-2 cups of green tea on 12 healthy volunteers for four weeks. They found that the tea increased nerve connectivity in regions of the brain associated with working memory (1).
“Many people consume green tea extracts in some form, so we were interested in the effects [on the brain],” says Stefan Borgwadt, Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University of Basel.
“Our findings provide [the] first evidence for the putative beneficial effect of green tea on cognitive functioning, in particular, on working memory processing at the neural system level by suggesting changes in short-term plasticity of parieto-frontal brain connections”, noted the researchers (2). Thus, patients performed better in memory-testing activities after the 4-week period than they had before the study.
Although the results are promising, Borwardt was quick to stress that the study has its limits, notably the fact that the group of volunteers was too small in size to get an accurate representation of the real implications of green tea on the general public.
Another study found that combined with regular exercise, green tea extract containing EGCG reduced inflammation in the brain and improved some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Thanks tot he findings of both studies, it’s suggested that drinking green tea every day may help prevent cognitive decline in older adults.
EGCG And Down Syndrome
Inspired by the studies mentioned above, researchers discovered that green tea has the ability to temporarily improve the symptoms of Down Syndrome.
They examined 87 people between the ages of 16 and 34-years-old suffering from the condition, all of whom received cognitive training during the rtial period. Half of the group, however, received green tea extract daily while the other half received a placebo over a period of 12 months (3,4).
The researchers found that the over-expressed genes that cause the neurological symptoms of Down Syndrome were slightly modulated by the tea.
The patients receiving the extract “[performed better] in tests for visual memory, the ability to control responses and the ability to plan or make calculations. Brain scans revealed improvements in connectivity between nerve cells and improvements were also seen in areas of the brain relating to language”.
In some patients, these results lasted up to 6 months after the end of the study.
“It was surprising to see how the changes are not just cognitive – in the reasoning, learning, memory and attention capacities – but suggest that the functional connectivity of the neurons in the brain was also modified,” said Dr de la Torre, co-researcher to the study.
“Our results have been already marginally positive in the adult population, in which cerebral plasticity is limited because the brain is already completely developed. We believe that if the treatment is applied to children, the results might be even better,” said the researchers.
Since you’re going to boil some water anyways, pick out some high-quality tea. If you’re aiming for high levels of EGCG, choose Matcha, a powdered variety that has 100x more epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) than other teas and contains higher levels of antioxidants.