Regular consumption of tea is associated with better cognitive performance according to a new Norwegian study.1 This was a cross-sectional study involving 2031 participants, 55% of whom were women, aged 70-74 years. Cognitive testing, which included a battery of six tests, was conducted by practice nurses. Habitual food intake was assessed by a food frequency questionnaire. Mean consumption of tea was 222ml/day, but when non-consumers were excluded, mean tea intake was 417ml/day.
Commenting on the study in more detail, Dr Catherine Hood of the Tea Advisory Panel notes: “The main findings in relation to cognitive performance were that poor test performance on all six tests reduced as an increasing number of flavonoids were consumed. Flavonoids are a class of compounds found in plants, which have antioxidant activity, plus a wide range of health benefits such as improving heart health and reducing stroke risk.
“The study tests found that tea, which is rich in flavonoids, improved performance on cognitive tests with a sharp dose-response of four cups of tea a day (200ml). In addition, the researchers looked at the effect of tea and herbal tea separately on cognition. They found that the positive associations were stronger when only tea was included and herbal tea was excluded.”
Dr Hood continues: “In our own TAP research reviews2,3,4 and studies we have found that tea consumption has shown benefits including improved alertness, short-term recall and reaction time. In addition, a shocking 50% of the population have reported being tired for at least 25% of the time. Most who reported tiredness said it was because they were busy or had work or family commitments (young children, shift work) which curtailed or interrupted their sleep. Some felt stressed and overworked which in itself made them feel tired and a few put it down to illness or hormonal issues (such as the menopause).”
Dr Hood adds: “In summary this study showed a relationship between four cups of tea and improved cognitive performance in older people, thanks to the flavonoid content of tea. More research is needed to evaluate and understand further the flavonoid status and its association with cognitive performance.”
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1Nurk, E, Refsum H, Drevon CA et al. Intake of Flavonoid-Rich Wine, Tea, and Chocolate by Elderly Men and Women Is Associated with Better Cognitive Test Performance. J. Nutr 2009; 139: 120–127.
2 + 321st Century Ills: Are People’s Lifestyles Putting Them At Risk? 100 face-to-face interviews conducted with men and women aged 25-54 in 13 areas in England, Scotland and Wales, 2008. Kember Associates Omnibus with 1,000+ participants, 2008.
4Ruxton, C. Black Tea and Health, British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin 33, 91–101 2008.
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