As we get older, our concern for our memory sharpness grows. We look to fancy supplements and healthy eating strategies to ease our worries and reduce our risk of dementia. However, we may not have to look further than our tea cabinets to find a memory-enhancing treatment. A new study found that drinking three cups of tea a day correlates with a lower risk of dementia.
A Closer Look at the Research
For the study, which was published in Translational Psychiatry, researchers collected data from 500,000 participants enrolled in a UK Biobank study. (The UK Biobank is a biomedical database based on medical and genetic information from volunteers. Researchers around the globe use it to conduct their own studies.)
After narrowing down the volunteers based on certain criteria, the researchers included data from 377,592 participants in their study. Volunteers were between 45 and 73 years old and agreed to follow-ups after nine years. Anyone who had a dementia diagnosis at the onset of the study was excluded.
All volunteers completed a questionnaire which asked, “how many cups of tea do you drink a day?” and “what type?” (green or black). Based on this information, the researchers split the volunteers into six categories, ranging from those who drank no tea to those who drank nine or more cups daily.
After analyzing the volunteers’ health nine years later, the researchers found that tea drinkers were 16 percent less likely to develop dementia than non-drinkers. Those who drank three to four cups a day were at the lowest risk.
However, not every tea drinker reaped the benefits. Those who drank an excessive amount — six cups or more daily — had a similar risk of dementia as the non-drinkers. (Everything in moderation!)
Why might tea reduce your dementia risk?
The researchers theorize that black and green tea contain antioxidants, which can reduce the amount of oxidative stress on the brain. (Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Too many free radicals can cause excess cell damage.) Antioxidants can reduce inflammation in the brain (neuroinflammation), and a growing body of research suggests that inflammation plays a role in the development of dementia.
Also, the researchers believe that caffeine does more than just “wake up the brain.” It may protect against something called neural ischemic injury — or damage to cells caused by low blood flow. In other words, caffeine may help promote circulation in the brain, which promotes healthy memory function.
Of course, the research wasn’t without its limitations. Since the volunteers self-reported their tea consumption, the accuracy of their responses was in question. Also, a cup of tea was loosely defined — one volunteer may have thought of a cup as a huge mug, while another thought of it as a tea cup, for example.
Still, the results are impressive, and drinking tea more often does have its advantages! It’s easy to find delicious ways to dress it up — from adding sweet coconut milk to your green tea to making iced black tea with milk and honey. (Remember to check with your doctor before you add caffeinated tea to your diet, especially if you take medication for asthma, seizures, or diabetes. See a full list of caffeine interactions here.)
And if you’re looking for other easy ways to reduce your risk of dementia, check out these tips.