BASEL, SwitzerlandGreen tea has been shown to have many positive effects on health, including warding off cancer, boosting heart health, helping with weight loss, enhancing cognition in the elderly and more. Now, a new study published in the journal Psychopharmacology reported the first evidence that green tea extract enhances cognitive functions, in particular the working memory.
For years the main ingredients of green tea have been studied in cancer research; however, scientists recently have been investigating the beverage’s positive impact on the human brain. Different studies were able to link green tea to beneficial effects on the cognitive performance; however, the neural mechanisms underlying this cognitive enhancing effect of green tea remained unknown.
According to researchers from the University Hospital of Basel and the Psychiatric University Clinics, results of this current study found green tea extract increases the brain’s effective connectivity, meaning the causal influence that one brain area exerts over another. This effect on connectivity also led to improvement in actual cognitive performance. In fact, study participants tested significantly better for working memory tasks after the admission of green tea extract.
For the study, healthy male volunteers received a soft drink containing several grams of green tea extract before they solved working memory tasks. Researchers analyzed how this affected the brain activity of the men using MRI, which showed increased connectivity between the parietal and the frontal cortex of the brain. The neuronal findings correlated positively with improvement in task performance of the participants.
“Our findings suggest that green tea might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain," the researchers said, adding that the findings suggest promising clinical implications for the treatment of cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia.
We all know green tea is so much more than just a drink. Green tea has been an on-trend ingredient for a few years and can be found in a whole host of foods and beverages, such as ice cream, candy, marinades, rubs, broths and energy drinks, just to name a few.
The overall tea category is on track to experience explosive market growth in the coming years, particularly in North America. In fact, market analyst Mintel forecasts the entire U.S. tea marketplace will double in value by 2016. Specialty tea has enjoyed a 15-year growth run, estimated at an average of 10% per year. Specialty tea not only survived the economic downturns of the last few years, but maintained its solid growth and expansion profile during this period.
Areas of interest to watch in the coming year include RTD (ready to drink) tea beverages, more sustainable packaging options and an increasing spotlight on tea as a key ingredientallowing its functional properties to shine, rather than masking tea beverages with high sugar contents.
For more information about new trends in tea, check out the free Beverage Insights’ “Report: TeaAncient Beverage, New Life."