New report says drinking tea can sharpen mind

SHARPENING THE MIND:A group of scientists in Singapore concluded that tea drinkers were better able to maintain their scores on memory tests over time

DPA , SINGAPORE

Mon, Apr 14, 2008 - Page 5

A cup of tea is good for the brain by slowing down cell degeneration and keeping the mind sharp into old age, a published report said yesterday.

A four-year study by scientists in Singapore adds to tea’s long- touted virtues.

Any type of tea will do, professor Ng Tze Pin from the National University of Singapore’s psychological medicine department said during an interview with the Sunday Times.

“Tea is cheap, non-toxic and widely consumed,” Ng was quoted as saying.

CATECHINS, THEANINE

The university’s scientists involved in the study found that catechins, a natural compound in tea, protect brain cells from damaging protein build-up over the years, maintaining the brain’s cognitive capability.

The caffeine in tea, unlike that in coffee, contains the natural protein theanine.

The protein is believed to counter the normal side effects of caffeine such as raised blood pressure, headaches and tiredness, the scientists said.

Brain-cell degeneration, caused by a combination of loss of nerve cells, predisposed genes, small strokes and increased levels of harmful protein build-up, often leads to dementia, the researchers said in the report.

The team of scientists studied the tea-drinking habits of 2,501 ethnic Chinese aged 55 and above from September 2003 to December 2005.

Participants’ health, attention span, language use and visual and spatial abilities were assessed.

Their tea consumption was then monitored over a period of two years.

About 38 percent of those surveyed did not drink tea.

Twenty-nine percent drank only one kind and the rest consumed a mix of teas.

Two-thirds of the tea drinkers maintained their scores on the same memory tests when given two years later.

DECLINE

Among the non-tea drinkers, 35 percent saw a drop in their scores by an average of two points, signifying cognitive decline.

Tea was the distinguishing factor keeping brain cells energized.

But the drink alone cannot do the job.

“It still means a lifetime of good habits and a balanced diet,” Ng said.