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Tea Drinking and Brain Connectivity in Older Adults

1/28/2020 4:47:21 PM
teaTea intake has been shown to benefit cardiovascular health, memory, cognition, and mood. However, few studies have evaluated the effects of tea intake on direct measurements of brain structure and function. In a study published in the journal Aging, researchers explored both global and regional brain connectivity based on structural and functional imaging in older adults.
Participants completed a questionnaire to report their frequency of drinking green tea, oolong tea, or black tea. They were then categorized as tea drinkers (n=15) or non-tea drinkers (n=21). Graph theoretical analysis was the method used to evaluate the structural and functional connectivity of the brain.

Study examines tea consumption and brain function

Three primary outcome parameters were evaluated. First was the structural and functional connectivity for global and regional measures because decreased connectivity is associated with brain aging. Second was hemispheric asymmetry because leftward asymmetry is characteristic of the aging brain. Third was connectivity within the default mode network (DMN) because the DMN has been shown to be involved in cognitive decline.  
The results showed that tea drinking was associated with more efficient structural connectivity (but not functional connectivity) between brain regions. Better structural connectivity was particularly evident in the frontal cortex (Pvalue=0.044). Also, tea-drinking suppressed the leftward asymmetry that is associated with aging and preserved a pattern that was more similar to the middle-aged brain (Pvalue = p=0.018). Lastly, tea drinkers maintained stronger connectivity in the DMN, suggesting more efficient brain organization.

Results show tea may protect brain during aging

This study involved a small number of participants, and its cross-sectional design poses a risk for confounding variables. However, this is one of the few studies to provide imaging data to explain the beneficial effects of tea drinking on brain health. The authors conclude that this study offers the “first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure” and suggests that tea may offer a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline. 
Li, J, R Romero-Garcia, J Suckling, and L Feng. “Habitual Tea Drinking Modulates Brain Efficiency: Evidence From Brain Connectivity Evaluation.” Aging (Albany NY) 11 (2019): 3876–90.