Green tea 'boosts' brain cells

6 September 2012

It has long been accepted that enjoying a cup of green tea is great for a person's heart, but it could also be a brilliant way of keeping the brain healthy too, according to new research.

Researchers from China have found in their interesting study that the properties from this popular drink contribute to the generation of new brain cells, which not only strengthens a person's memory capabilities, but also boosts spatial learning.

Professor Yun Bai, lead author from the Third Military University in Chongqing, China, explained that in the past there has been ample work done on investigating the remedial benefits of green tea in fighting cardiovascular diseases, which has established a positive link.

Now though, the attention is shifting into other areas like the brain, with research like this recent investigation observing that chemical properties found within green tea impact positively on "cellular mechanisms in the brain".

The focus of the team's research was on the organic chemical known as EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate), which is found in green tea.

"We proposed that EGCG can improve cognitive function by impacting the generation of neuron cells, a process known as neurogenesis," elaborated prof Bai.  "We focused our research on the hippocampus, the part of the brain which processes information from short-term to long-term memory."

What was notable about the study was in seeing how EGCG significantly increases the production of neural progenitor cells, which can modify themselves into other cells.

The team conducted experiments on two groups of mice, one of which had been given an EGCG component and the other without. The mice were trained to find a visible platform in their maze, after which they were trained to find an invisible platform.

They discovered that the EGCG group were more efficient and needed less training to find the hidden platform than their non-EGCG counterparts.

"We have shown that the organic chemical EGCG acts directly to increase the production of neural progenitor cells, both in glass tests and in mice,' prof Bai added.

"This helps us to understand the potential for EGCG, and green tea which contains it, to help combat degenerative diseases and memory loss."

This study is the latest in a number of reports looking into how green tea can help keep the brain functioning at an optimum level.

Last year scientists at Newcastle University found that green tea may be conducive in helping fight Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. What the team discovered was that green tea, once digested, proved to be active.

Green tea contains natural chemicals known as polyphenols, which are known for having antioxidants in them. Binding with toxic chemicals in the brain, it helps to protect brain cells.

"There are obviously many factors which together have an influence on diseases such as cancer and dementia – a good diet, plenty of exercise and a healthy lifestyle are all important," commented Dr Ed Okello from the university at the time.

"But I think it’s fair to say that at least one cup of green tea a day may be good for you and I would certainly recommend it."

Because there is no known treatment for Alzheimer's, a mixture of medication, healthy living and fitness regimes can help slowdown the development of the condition.

"It is estimated that one in three people over 65 in the UK will develop dementia," the NHS states. "The risk increases with age, and people who are over 80 years of age are thought to have a one in six chance of developing the condition."

Posted by Jeanette Royston

Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.

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