A good cup of tea can be a simple indulgence each day, but research shows that there may be even more to love about this drink.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, recorded tea drinking began around the year 350. Ever since, it's been a hot commodity in global trading, a social staple in many cultures and in some cases, a common medicine.
The medicinal value of tea has been the subject of many studies over the years to test its effects on everything from stress levels to diabetes. Now, a team of scientists with the National University of Singapore believes it can add "possible may help prevent dementia" to the list of tea's healthy qualities.
"Tea leaves may defend the brain from degenerative diseases."
Can tea combat cognitive decline for seniors?
The NUS study examined tea consumption for 957 Chinese seniors over the course of two years, then followed up with regular cognitive tests for another five years. They found that study participants who routinely drank black, green or oolong tea brewed directly from tea leaves were 50 percent less likely to experience cognitive decline and were at a decreased risk for developing Alzheimer's.
"Our findings have important implications for dementia prevention," said Dr. Feng Lei, assistant professor at NUS. "Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. 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."
According to the Huffington Post, the brain-boosting effects of tea consumption may stem from its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. These elements, along with other compounds found naturally in tea leaves, may defend the brain from degenerative diseases and improve vascular functions.
Further research is required to determine the extent of tea's role in preventing dementia, but researchers are optimistic that this could be a move in the right direction for treating the condition.
Other health benefits of tea
While there have been few conclusive studies confirming the health benefits of tea, medical professionals around the world promote the beverage for different health qualities:
- Green tea contains the highest amount of polyphenol antioxidants of any tea variety, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This has been linked to lower cholesterol, faster metabolism and may even play a role in preventing certain types of cancers or diabetes.
- White tea has high levels of flavonoids, Oregon State University reports, which may reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.
- Black tea may improve blood circulation, leading to lower instances of heart disease and high blood pressure, according to a study published in Nutrients journal.
Herbal teas, which may include true tea leaves with additional herbal supplements, or consistent entirely of other plant bases, are also commonly used to help people with relaxation, insomnia and stress. Popular varieties include peppermint tea, jasmine tea and chamomile tea.
Drinking tea for health
It can be easy to incorporate more tea into your diet to try and gain some of these possible benefits. As with any kind of treatment or dietary supplement, you should first consult your doctor before increasing your tea intake as a health measure. Since the science on tea is still inconclusive, your physician may want to advise you on other treatments and preventative measures to pursue as well.
Tea is easy to make, whether you choose to brew pure tea leaves, use bagged tea, drink it hot or prefer it iced. Just remember that each variety has different requirements for the temperature at which you brew it or how long you let the leaves steep for the best potency. You can flavor teas with natural sweeteners like honey or agave nectar, or make them more acidic with a squeeze of lemon. Some also prefer a splash of milk, while others drink it plain.
With such an array of ways to take your tea, you can easily find a flavor you enjoy and add it to your daily diet.