Tea Consumption May Protect Elderly From Cognitive Decline

Chinese researchers found indications that regular tea consumption lowers the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly, especially those who are genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings, according to the National University of Singapore (NUS), were that tea drinking reduced the risk of cognitive impairment in older persons by 50 percent. APOE e4 gene carriers who are genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease could experience a reduction in cognitive impairment risk by as much as 86 percent, the university reported.

The study was published in the December 2016 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging.

The researchers, led by Assistant Professor Feng Lei at NUS’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, collected tea consumption information 957 elderly Chinese individuals from 2003 to 2005. They then ascertained cases of neurocognitive disorders (NCD) from 2006 to 2010.

A total of 72 incident NCD cases were identified from the cohort. Using consistent non-tea consumers as the reference, only consistent tea consumers had reduced risk of NCD, the study found. Reduced risk was observed for both green tea and black/oolong tea.

Information on lifestyles, medical conditions, physical and social activities were also collected, according to the university, which said those potential confounding factors were carefully controlled in statistical models to ensure the robustness of the findings.

“While the study was conducted on Chinese elderly, the results could apply to other races as well. Our findings have important implications for dementia prevention,” Feng said in the university’s report. “The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life.”

Based on current knowledge, the benefits of tea are due to the bioactive compounds in tea leaves, such as catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins and L-theanine, Feng said. “These compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential and other bioactive properties that may protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration. Our understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited so we do need more research to find out definitive answers.”