First Study to Show Structural Enhancements in Brain Efficiency in Long Term Tea Drinkers

Tea drinking over the long term has a positive effect on brain activity, resulting in more efficient functional and structural connectivity. (Photo/Adobe Stock)

Researchersconducting a study on brain activity report that those whoconsume tea at least four times a week showed structural changes in brainregions, an indication of more efficient connections, according to the NationalUniversity of Singapore (NUS). The study is the first to demonstrate structuralbenefits to the brain from drinking tea.

“Our results offer the first compelling evidence that teadrinking positively contributes to brain structure making network organizationmore efficient,” said lead author Dr. Feng Lei, a researcher in the Departmentof Psychological Medicine, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Lei wasassisted by teams in the UK at both the University of Essex and the Universityof Cambridge.

The study, first published in the journal Aging,“comprehensively investigated the effects of tea drinking on brain connectivityat both global and regional scales using multi-modal imaging data (i.e.,functional and structural imaging),” he said.

Thirty-six healthyadults, aged 60 and older and divided into two groups, underwentneuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRi) exams during the period2015 to 2018.

Brain regions exhibiting significant differences in structural nodal efficiency between the tea drinking group and the non-tea drinking group. Abbreviations: SFGdor.R – right superior frontal gyrus (dorsal), MFG.R – right middle frontal gyrus, OLF.L – left olfactory, REC.L – left gyrus rectus, ACG.L – left anterior cingulate and paracingulate gyri, LING.L – left lingual gyrus, which primarily reside in the frontal cortex. Image credit: J. Li et al. 2019. Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation. Aging 11: 3876-3890; doi: 10.18632/aging.102023 ( Photo credit: National University of Singapore, Li et al, doi:10.18632/aging.102023. Appears in the journal Aging.)

Subjectsconsuming either green tea, black tea or oolong tea weekly for 25 or more yearsshowed the greatest benefit. Professor Lei, who led the research team, said theresults suggest that drinking tea regularly can protect the brain fromage-related decline.

In a press release he used the analogy of road traffic:“Consider brain regions as destinations, while the connections between brainregions are roads. When a road system is better organised, the movement ofvehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses less resources,” said Feng."Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are morestructured, information processing can be performed more efficiently,” saidFeng, an assistant professor at NUS.

“We have shown in our previous studies that tea drinkers had better cognitive function as compared to non-tea drinkers. Our current results relating to brain network indirectly support our previous findings by showing that the positive effects of regular tea drinking are the result of improved brain organisation brought about by preventing disruption to interregional connections,” said Feng.

The research abstract notes coffee consumption was notsignificantly different between the tea drinking and non-tea drinking groups,nor were gender, years of education, left or right-handedness or age  factors.

Researchers say they focused on interregional connectivitywithin the brain because previous studies have suggested that it ispredominately involved in cognitive disease and normal aging.

Photo credit Adobe Stock

The authors hypothesize: (1) habitual tea drinking haspositive effects on brain organization and gives rise to greater efficiency infunctional and structural connectivity; (2) tea intake leads to less leftwardasymmetry in structural connectivity; (3) tea drinking is associated withconnective strength alterations of functional and structural connectivity inthe default mode network (DMN).

Past studies have demonstrated that tea benefits brainhealth in several ways, improving cognitive function, mood and circulation.Feng said his team will next investigate bioactive compounds in tea that impactcognitive decline.

Source: Channel News Asia, Beverage Daily, Aging, LabManager Magazine

*Li J, Romero-GarciaR, Suckling J, Feng L. Habitual tea drinkingmodulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation. Aging(Albany NY). 2019; 11:3876-3890.