Green Tea Boosts Memory

by Dr. Jonny Bowden · 17 comments

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The following is a guest article by health reporter Craig Weatherby, brought to you by our friends at Vital Choice.

 

Green Tea Boosts Memory

Clinical study sees green tea boosting brain areas associated with working memory; mouse study affirms the effect.

By Craig Weatherby

A Swiss scientific team gives us the first look inside the brains of green tea drinkers.

It’s been pretty well proven that drinking green tea will not prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia.

But most of us will be happy with any food, drink, or dietary supplement that helps maintain memory function as we reach senior status.

And the Swiss team’s small fMRI study suggests that green tea antioxidants may benefit a part of the brain associated with “working” memory.

Working Memory vs. Short-Term Memory

Working memory is not the same as short term memory, which is the capacity for retaining a small amount of information for up to one minute.

Instead, the brain’s working memory system holds multiple bits of information needed for reasoning and comprehension for longer periods, and keeps them available for further processing.

Working memory enables tasks that require directed action toward a goal, despite distracting sensory inputs or mental processes.

It involves the brain’s “executive” control of short-term memories, and enables integration, processing, disposal, and retrieval of information.

Our capacity for working memory increases gradually over childhood … and declines as we age.

Swiss Study Sees Green Tea Boosting Working Memory Regions

Previous studies have indicated that the antioxidant polyphenols green tea – and, to a lesser extent, the phenols in black tea – might benefit memory.

Animal studies suggest that green tea works in multiple ways to benefit brain health, including reduction of oxidation and inflammation (Dimpfel W et al. 2007; Mandel SA et al. 2008; Kakuda T 2011; Andrade JP, Assunção M 2012; Biasibetti R et al. 2012; Wu KJ et al. 2012; Lee YJ et al. 2012).

A new double-blind, controlled trial from Switzerland’s University Hospital Basel is one of the few human studies … and the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.

Professor Stefan Borgwardt’s team employed fMRI scans looked for changes in volunteers’ brains following the consumption of green tea extracts (Borgwardt S et al. 2012).

The Swiss group recruited 12 healthy volunteers to perform a working memory task after consuming 250 or 500ml of a whey-based soft drink. (Whey is milk protein.)

Half got a drink with added green tea extract, and the others got the same drink without tea extract (Rivella AG, Switzerland).

The fMRI scans showed no significant overall changes in the whole brain … but consumption of the green tea extract was associated with increased activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or DL-PFC.

The DL-PFC region is involved in working memory and considered critical to the integration of sensory and mnemonic (memory-triggering) information and the regulation of intellectual functions.

Significantly, higher doses of green tea extract produced greater activation of the DL-PFC region.

As the Swiss team concluded, “… green tea extract enhances the engagement of brain regions that mediate working memory processing.” (Borgwardt S et al. 2012)

Green tea is one of few sources of a polyphenol compound called epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG).

(Cocoa is another rich source, though it has less EGCG that green tea does, and greater amounts of related catechin compounds.)

Prior research indicates that EGCG might boost memory and brain functions … and could perhaps even help prevent or ameliorate some neurodegenerative diseases.

Supporting those ideas, a mouse study from China shows that EGCG from tea boosted the production of brain cells important to memory and “spatial” learning (Wang Y et al. 2012).

EGCG Improves Learning and Memory in Mice

They hypothesized that EGCG improves cognitive function by boosting the generation of brain cells – a process known as neurogenesis – in brain areas involved in memory, such as the hippocampus.

In a test tube study, the Chinese group found that EGCG boosted the production of neural progenitor cells in tissue from the mouse hippocampus. (Like stem cells, progenitor cells can differentiate into various types of cells.)

Specifically, EGCG promoted the growth of progenitor cells in the hippocampus.

The researchers then gave mice EGCG from green tea to see whether it would improve the animals’ memory or spatial learning.

They ran tests on two groups of mice, one which had imbibed EGCG, and a control group.

First, the mice were trained for three days to find a visible platform in their maze. Then they were trained for seven days to find a hidden platform.

The mice given EGCG required less time to find the hidden platform – suggesting that the compound enhances learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.

As the scientists wrote, “We have shown that the organic chemical EGCG acts directly to increase the production of neural progenitor cells, both in glass tests and in mice.

This helps us to understand the potential for EGCG, and green tea which contains it, to help combat degenerative diseases and memory loss.” (Wang Y et al. 2012)

So drink up … if you can remember to do it!

Sources

  • Andrade JP, Assunção M. Protective effects of chronic green tea consumption on age-related neurodegeneration. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(1):4-14. Review.
  • Biasibetti R, Tramontina AC, Costa AP, Dutra MF, Quincozes-Santos A, Nardin P, Bernardi CL, Wartchow KM, Lunardi PS, Gonçalves CA. Green tea (-)epigallocatechin-3-gallate reverses oxidative stress and reduces acetylcholinesterase activity in a streptozotocin-induced model of dementia. Behav Brain Res. 2012 Sep 1. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Borgwardt S, Hammann F, Scheffler K, Kreuter M, Drewe J, Beglinger C. Neural effects of green tea extract on dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug 29. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.105. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Dimpfel W, Kler A, Kriesl E, Lehnfeld R, Keplinger-Dimpfel IK. Source density analysis of the human EEG after ingestion of a drink containing decaffeinated extract of green tea enriched with L-theanine and theogallin. Nutr Neurosci. 2007 Jun-Aug;10(3-4):169-80
  • Kakuda T. Neuroprotective effects of theanine and its preventive effects on cognitive dysfunction. Pharmacol Res. 2011 Aug;64(2):162-8. Epub 2011 Apr 6. Review.
  • Lee YJ, Choi DY, Yun YP, Han SB, Oh KW, Hong JT. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate prevents systemic inflammation-induced memory deficiency and amyloidogenesis via its anti-neuroinflammatory properties. J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Mandel SA, Amit T, Kalfon L, Reznichenko L, Weinreb O, Youdim MB. Cell signaling pathways and iron chelation in the neurorestorative activity of green tea polyphenols: special reference to epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). J Alzheimers Dis. 2008 Oct;15(2):211-22. Review.
  • Wang Y, Li M, Xu X, Song M, Tao H, Bai Y. Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) promotes neural progenitor cell proliferation and sonic hedgehog pathway activation during adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012 Aug;56(8):1292-303. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201200035. Epub 2012 Jun 13.
  • Wu KJ, Hsieh MT, Wu CR, Wood WG, Chen YF. Green Tea Extract Ameliorates Learning and Memory Deficits in Ischemic Rats via Its Active Component Polyphenol Epigallocatechin-3-gallate by Modulation of Oxidative Stress and Neuroinflammation. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:163106. Epub 2012 Aug 2.
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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Monique

How much green tea needs to be imbibed daily, to hit the levels of green tea extract used in the study, and the benefits derived from that?
Want to start right away with our son.

Reply

Dr. Jonny Bowden

i believe it’s about 250 mg a day of green tea catechins. That’s what i take as a supplement (it’s in my website store) but i also drink green tea throughout the day.

Reply

maha

Can someone with Hashimoto thyroiditis drink green tea?

Reply

Rick

what about the subject of green tea and fluoride? Does green tea contain fluoride and is it dangerous? The internet can be cruel sometimes when your looking for information.

Reply

Dr. Jonny Bowden

i have never personally heard of green tea being contaminated by fluoride, but obviously, green tea made from tap water which has fluoride in it is a different story. Why not just used bottled or purified water and not worry about it?

Reply

Rick

I understand the tap water issue, and I don’t drink tap water. Our city’s water supply has fluoride in it. The only way to filter fluoride out of water is through distillation, from what I found out. There is so many studies, (http://poisonfluoride.com/pfpc/html/green_tea___.html)
that belief in the info is one sided. How do you rely on studies with so many confounders?

P.S. I made you a banner for you facebook page! It’s in your facebook messages, if that is you Dr. Bowden

Reply

Edwin Gordon

I love drinking green tea, it help calms and eases my confused mind. though we all know its benefits, green tea is also considered to those individual who wants to lose weight. Somehow when I drink green tea while I am studying, it helps me retain on what I have studied which is very helpful for the next day. I guess that is the reason why green tea can boost our memory.

Reply

Chantelle

Thanks so much Jonny for all your amazing content! I’m forever a fan :-). Regarding green tea, I read a few articles that said it is high in fluoride and aluminium – the absorption is which is aided by adding lemon to your tea. Both toxins have been linked to dementia. Any thoughts on this?
I LOVE my green tea, so I was a bit disturbed by reading this. Really value your opinion, so would love to hear.

Reply

Dr. Jonny Bowden

hi chantelle

This is the first i’m hearing of this, and would love to see the reference. However, i think this problem could become a non-problem by simply choosing really high quality, organic green tea and making it with purified or bottled or filtered water.

warmly
jb

Reply

Organic Green Tea India

Green tea has many health benefits and many researches are going on that will further tell the health benefit of green tea.

Reply

Chantelle

Hi Dr Jonny, thanks for your response! A couple of the articles that I’ve seen are linked below… with some references to particular studies. May just be cases of “being mindful of your sources”, but I’ve seen it often enough to be a little concerned. After doing a little research, I also came across a PDF from a peer reviewed journal. You are free to google the document as I couldn’t attach the PDF :-)). – DIFFERENCES IN ALUMINIUM CONTENT OF VARIOUS TEA
POWDERS (BLACK, GREEN, HERBAL, FRUIT) AND TEA
INFUSIONS

http://teatimetuesday.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/dont-put-that-lemon-in-your-tea/

http://www.antioxidants-for-health-and-longevity.com/green-tea-side-effects.html

As always, keep doing what you are doing… you help so many people! :-))

Reply

Dr. Jonny Bowden

Thanks Chantelle! i will definitely look into this.

warmly
jb

Reply

Chantelle

thank you …. u r d best!!

Reply

Kawa

I love green tea every morning and after work I always take green tea as my favorite drink. I knew this green tea could help me boosting my capacity to remember anything so I need this everyday. This also help our metabolism.

Reply

henning

Wonder what those mice were all exposed to.

Reply

Taiaba

hey, how many cups a day should i drink this? i drink green tea one cup a day.

Reply

jessica

I had such a great time reading your article. I enjoy each & every bit of it. It was really informative. I feel strongly about it and got knowledge more on this subject. The tips are really very nice and help us in getting rid of extra fats and weight.

Reply

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