World’s First-of-Its-Kind Clinical Trial Says Matcha Improves Sleep, Social Cognitive Functions

The world’s first clinical trial to assess matcha’s inhibitory effects on the decline of cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, pre-stage dementia and subjective cognitive decline was recently conducted.

The results of the study were presented on Aug. 2 in San Diego, Calif., at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference – the largest international conference on advancing dementia science and sharing research that can lead to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

The research was jointly conducted by MCBI Inc., a venture corporation established by the University of Tsukuba, and ITO EN, Ltd. Research collaborators included Professor Tetsuaki Arai and Dr. Takashi Asada.

Through the clinical study, researchers found that the daily intake of matcha was associated with an improvement in sleep quality and social cognitive function.

Matcha, which has been popular in Japan for centuries and continues to become more popular in the United States, contains catechin and theanine. Previous studies, according to the researchers, suggested that catechin reduces blood cholesterol levels and body fat and also improves working memory, while theanine relieves stress and improves sleep and working memory. Additionally, it has been reported that the short-term intake of matcha can increase attentiveness and the accuracy of decision making in middle-aged and older adults.

In this new clinical study, participants undertook cognitive function evaluations, blood-based biomarkers, kinetic analyses (blood tea component levels), neuroimaging (fNIRS and Amyloid PET imaging) and sleep evaluations before and after the intervention involving the long-term intake of matcha, to comprehensively analyze the effects of matcha and changes in biomarkers.

This trial was conducted as a double blind placebo-controlled randomized comparative study of 99 participants diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, the pre-stage of dementia, or subjective cognitive decline, the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, selected from 939 participants aged 60 to 85. The goal was to investigate the effect of the long-term intake of matcha on cognitive function, etc.

Participants in the matcha group took matcha capsules (two grams of matcha per day) for 12 months, while participants in the placebo group used capsules filled with colored corn starch. Changes in the endpoints from the start of the study to month 12 were statistically validated using mixed effects models.

The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) was used to evaluate quality of sleep, revealing a trend toward a decrease in PSQI scores and an improvement in the quality of sleep in the matcha group of participants. As a result of conducting neuropsychological tests and screenings for dementia and mild cognitive impairments, there was no difference in the cognitive function scores of the matcha group and the placebo group.

When cognitive function was evaluated using Cognitrax for each brain region, the matcha group showed a significant improvement in social cognition assessed with a facial expression recognition test – specifically, the precision of their perception of emotions based on facial expression compared to the placebo group.

The researchers noted that they view the value of tea with a scientific eye and engaged in the research to propose lifestyle improvements to enable people to live fulfilling lives in the era of the 100-year life expectancy.

Through the research initiative, ITO EN and MCBI said they’ll work on contributing to the realization of healthy and rich living, as well as a sustainable society, through efforts to enable the elderly to live fulfilling lives in a super-aging society.

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