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25 September 2012
Tea is the world’s most widely consumed drink apart from water. It is grown and exported from 30 countries and comes in up to 3000 varieties and we are not talking about herbal teas here, just the brews made from the plant Camellia sinensis. The many varieties of tea come from variations in place of growing and processing. One of the tea varieties, green tea, has a well deserved reputation as a healthy beverage and now a new study has added to that by finding that it can improve mental functions.
In the early 1990s global production of green tea stood at around 500,000 tonnes annually. A new market report by Global Industry Analysts has projected that figure to have risen to 1.2 million tonnes every year by the year 2015. Green tea is a significant and growing portion of the overall tea market and although it comes from the same plant as the black tea more commonly found in homes around the Western world it is distinctly different.
Green tea leaves are picked and immediately sent to be dried or steamed to prevent fermentation, whereas black tea and other types are left to ferment after they are picked. The fermentation process leads to the breakdown of many of the anrtioxidant polyphenols in tea. Black tea retains many antioxidant properties but green tea is even stronger in this regard.
In a new study researchers concentrated on an antioxidant chemical that is highly concentrated in green tea; epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG). Their theory was that EGCG would improve brain function by increasing the generation of neuron cells, a process called neurogenesis. They found that EGCG does encourage the manufacture of neuroprogenitor cells that are similar in function to stem cells and can turn into many different kinds of cells.
To investigate the effect of this in living creatures the researchers tested two groups of mice, one which had been given EGCG and one which had not. The mice were trained for three days to find a visible platform in their maze. They were then trained for seven days to find a hidden platform. Those given EGCG found the hidden platform much faster indicating that their memory and spatial awareness had been given a boost.
So if you find yourself needing to find a hidden platform in a maze green tea is clearly the drink for you.