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 on Sunday. ( dpa )
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 told The Sunday Times.
"Tea is cheap, non-toxic and widely consumed," Ng was quoted as saying.
The university's scientists found that catechins, a natural compound in tea, protects 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, which counters 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 report said.
The team of scientists studied the tea-drinking habits of 2,501 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 monitored.
About 38 per cent did not drink tea. Twenty-nine per cent 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 two years later. Among the non-tea drinkers, 35 per cent saw a drop in their scores by an average of two points, signifying cognitive decline.
Tea was the distinguishing factor keeping brain cell energized.
The drink alone cannot do the job.
"It still means a lifetime of good habits and a balanced diet," Ng said.