Habitual Tea Drinking Contributes Positively To Brain Structure

A new study looks at the effects of tea drinking on the brain[1]. Researchers recruited healthy older participants to two groups according to their history of tea drinking frequency and investigated both functional and structural networks to reveal the role of tea drinking on brain organization.

“Tea has been a popular beverage since antiquity, with records referring to consumption dating back to the dynasty of Shen Nong (approximately 2700 BC) in China,”

Dr. Junhua Li of Wuyi University, and Dr. Lei Feng from National University of Singapore, said. Tea is consumed in diverse ways, with brewed tea and products with a tea ingredient extremely prevalent in Asia, especially in China and Japan.

Maintaining Cognitive Ability

Although individual constituents of tea have been related to the roles of maintaining cognitive abilities[2] and preventing cognitive decline, a study with behavioural and neurophysiological measures showed that there was a degraded effect or no effect when a constituent was administered alone and a significant effect was observed only when constituents were combined.

Brain regions exhibiting significant differences in structural nodal efficiency between the tea drinking group and the non-tea drinking group at the significance level of 0.01 (uncorrected) statistical evaluated by a permutation test.

Brain regions exhibiting significant differences in structural nodal efficiency between the tea drinking group and the non-tea drinking group at the significance level of 0.01 (uncorrected) statistical evaluated by a permutation test.
Credit: Li J, et al. CC-BY

Although the suppression of hemispheric asymmetry in the structural connectivity network was observed as a result of tea drinking. the authors did not observe any significant effects of tea drinking on the hemispheric asymmetry of the functional connectivity network.

The superior effect of the constituent combination was also demonstrated in a comparative experiment that suggested that tea itself should be administered instead of tea extracts; a review of tea effects on the prevention of Alzheimers disease, found that the neuroprotective role of herbal tea was apparent in eight out of nine studies.

Brain Network Organization Efficiency

For the tea-drinking group, functional connectivity strength within the default mode network (DMN) was higher. Also, coexistence of increasing and decreasing connective strengths was observed in the structural connectivity of the DMN.

It is worth noting that the majority of studies thus far have evaluated tea effects from the perspective of neurocognitive and neuropsychological measures, with direct measurement of brain structure or function less-well represented[3] in the extant literature.

These studies focusing on brain regional alterations did not ascertain tea effects on interregional interactions at the level of the entire brain.

“In summary, our study comprehensively investigated the effects of tea drinking on brain connectivity at both global and regional scales using multi-modal imaging data and provided the first compelling evidence that tea drinking positively contributes to brain structure making network organization more efficient,”

the Li/Feng Research team concluded.

[1] Li J, Romero-Garcia R, Suckling J, Feng L. Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation. Aging (Albany NY). 2019; 11:3876-3890. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.102023

[2] Feng L, Chong MS, Lim WS, Gao Q, Nyunt MS, Lee TS, Collinson SL, Tsoi T, Kua EH, Ng TP. Tea consumption reduces the incidence of neurocognitive disorders: findings from the Singapore longitudinal aging study. J Nutr Health Aging. 2016; 20:1002–09. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-016-0687-0

[3] Mancini E, Beglinger C, Drewe J, Zanchi D, Lang UE, Borgwardt S. Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review. Phytomedicine. 2017; 34:26–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2017.07.008