Drinking Tea May Boost Cognition and Ward Off Dementia, Singapore Study Suggests

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by Magdalena Kegel |

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Alzheimer's tea

Premium tea from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. (Photo credit: Larry Luxner)

Drinking tea may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurocognitive ailments, concludes a study that followed elderly adults in Singapore.

Since objectively measurable markers of tea consumption are now available, researchers at the National University of Singapore urge more efforts to examine the individual compounds in tea responsible for this effect.

Their study, “Tea consumption reduces the incidence of neurocognitive disorders: Findings from the Singapore longitudinal aging study,” appeared in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging.

Earlier research has shown that drinking tea leads to better cognitive measures and a lower risk of cognitive decline. But so far, studies have not found any link between tea consumption and lower rates of Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disease.

The researchers, using information from the Singapore Longitudinal Aging Study — which follows healthy older adults over time — noted that 69 percent of the study’s 957 participants were regular tea drinkers. The team collected data on tea consumption from 2003 to 2005, and the rate of new dementia cases between 2006 and 2010, a period that saw 72 new diagnoses.

Tea intake was linked to higher cognitive scores and a lower risk of neurocognitive disease. Green, black and oolong tea were all equally likely to reduce that risk. Moreover, those who did get sick tended to be older, with less schooling, more heart disease and less frequent social and productive activities.

Yet the other risk factors had no influence on the link between tea and neurocognitive disease; in fact, the more tea a person drank, the stronger its protective effect. However, researchers saw that effect only in people who were regular tea drinkers both at the beginning of the study and at follow-up.

Analyzing the risks in various patient groups, the team noticed the reduced risk really only in women and in people with the APOE4 gene, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. These links could not be proven when analyzing the entire group, and researchers suggest future studies in order to analyze those factors in greater detail.