In China, drinking tea has long been believed to be good for the memory. Now researchers have discovered how the chemical properties of tea affect the generation of brain cells, providing benefits for memory and learning. The latest research, published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, indicates that in addition to the well-known effects of tea on cardiovascular disease, tea may include chemicals that impact cellular mechanisms in the brain.
The research focused on the organic chemical EGCG, (epigallocatechin-3 gallate), which is a key component of green tea. While EGCG is a known anti-oxidant, it is now believed to also be beneficial against age-related degenerative diseases. It appears that EGCG can improve cognitive function by impacting the creation of new neuron cells, a process known as neurogenesis.
According to professor Yun Bai, the lead researcher, EGCG boosts the production of neural progenitor cells. These cells are like specialized stem cells for the brain and can adapt or differentiate into various types of cells. The increase in progenitor cells appears to result in new brain cells that help prevent degenerative diseases and memory loss. The results of the research revealed that EGCG enhances learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.
How much tea does one need to consume to realize these brain enhancing effects? No one really knows yet. But as with most plant based chemicals, small amounts delivered on a regular basis probably have the most beneficial effect. This approach is consistent with the ages old Chinese practice of drinking tea on a regular basis. So enjoy a cup of tea daily!