By Kennedy Shelley
Most people on the planet drink tea every day. It is by far the most consumed drug in the world beating out coffee.
It seems that because people enjoy it, scientists keep trying to figure out ways it may harm us.
But a new but small study shows that drinking tea may not only be a caffeine boost for your mood but may give your brain a boost by increasing neuropathways.
There are large numbers of studies showing many health benefits of tea drinking, but most recognize it doesn’t solve every problem.
But this study does show that regular tea drinking does boost brain health.
In 2014 a Chinese study showed that daily tea drinkers were at much lower risk of depression.
Now, this was not a double-blind randomized trial where depressed people were given tea to see if their symptoms improved.
It was a correlational study that showed that people who drank tea were less likely to report being depressed.
Another study that looked at over 2,500 participants found that regular tea drinkers were less likely to suffer from loss of brain function as they aged.
But again, this study only showed a link between the behavior and a result.
The National University of Singapore study of 36 people gets us a little closer to show a link between tea drinking and improved mental function.
This study looked into brain connections and found they were much better with tea drinkers.
This is the first time that a study tried to find objective evidence and not just self-reported feelings of the study participants.
The study looked at specific connectivity of the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain.
This is what your brain is like at rest, i.e. not worried, under then influence of any drug, thinking about a problem or otherwise stimulated.
Our brains are never completely at “rest.” Even when we are not thinking about anything, it’s still keeping our heart beating, our lungs breathing and pondering life issues.
But more important the DMN may be very important in establishing our morality, empathy, sense of wellbeing and even imagining the future.
Many neurologists believe the DMN state may play a key role in brain aging.
What seems to be important based on what we know today is maintaining symmetry with our neuropathways.
In other words, the more balanced these connections are in the brain, the healthier it seems to be because there are fewer brain problems who have these symmetrical connections.
This study only had 36 participants as was designed to test to see if they wanted to study the effect of tea on the DMN of the brain.
Each participant was given an MRI scan of the brain. 15 of the participants drank tea nearly every day, and 21 non tea drinkers.
All were 60 or older. Both groups drank the same amount of coffee, so it wasn’t a question of caffeine consumption.
Both groups were given 12 tests to measure brain function. There were no differences in 11 of the 12 tests.
But when they studied brain connections, they started to notice significant differences. The tea drinkers had much more robust connections.
The study’s authors were quoted in MNT:
“Greater efficiency in functional and structural connectivity due to increased global network efficiency.”
“Take the analogy of road traffic as an example — consider brain regions as destinations, while the connections between brain regions are roads,” explains study lead, Assistant Professor Feng Lei. “When a road system is better organized, the movement of vehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses less resources.”
“Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be performed more efficiently,” Prof. Feng concluded.”
So, while this may not be the only reason to start drinking tea, it is worth monitoring to see if regular tea consumption protects the brain.