People have enjoyed drinking tea (Camellia sinensis) for thousands of years. The combination of its naturally-occurring amino acid l-theanine, combined with low levels of caffeine, gives people a sense of alertness and focus. Other compounds, including epicogallatin-3-gallate (better known as EGCG), may inhibit tumor growth and improve chemotherapy treatment.
Among its many benefits, it also appears that regular tea drinking helps foster connections between the hemispheres of the brain. It is typically believed that we have strengths related to the development of either the right or left hemispheres of the brain. Connections between the two – like any promoted brain connections – can help keep cognitive disorders at bay, especially as we get older.
That the “default mode network” of the brain also showed greater connectivity isn’t surprising. If tea can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, stronger signal strength in the mind is fairly likely.
While more research needs to be done, this study shows that the healthy habits we develop over time can lead to rewards later in life.
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(11):3876–3890. doi:10.18632/aging.102023
The majority of tea studies have relied on neuropsychological measures, and much fewer on neuroimaging measures, especially for interregional connections. To date, there has been no exploration of the effect of tea on system-level brain networks. We 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. The results showed that tea drinking gave rise to the more efficient structural organization, but had no significant beneficial effect on the global functional organization. The suppression of hemispheric asymmetry in the structural connectivity network was observed as a result of tea drinking. We did not observe any significant effects of tea drinking on the hemispheric asymmetry of the functional connectivity network. In addition, functional connectivity strength within the default mode network (DMN) was greater for the tea-drinking group, and coexistence of increasing and decreasing connective strengths was observed in the structural connectivity of the DMN. Our study offers the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggests a protective effect on age-related decline in brain organisation.
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