Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, robbing people of their independence and eventually their very identity. However, research is showing that the regular consumption of certain kinds of tea may reduce the risk and severity of Alzheimer's and other similar conditions.
Green tea: safeguard against dementia?
Green tea has long been known to have anti-carcinogenic properties. That is to say, drinking green tea can assist in minimizing the chance of developing cancer. However, research is now showing that green tea may provide other significant benefits.
For one thing, green tea and black tea both contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds that have neuroprotective properties. The way they work is by binding with toxic compounds and, in so doing, protect the brain from the toxins.
Alzheimer's is associated with the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques impair the function of the brain cells and eventually kills them altogether. When an elderly person (or any person, for that matter) consumes green tea, a flavonoid by the name of EGCG binds to the beta-amyloid proteins and prevents the formation of these plaques.
Further, green tea seems to stimulate brain activity in those areas of the brain associated with memory.
Green tea: more than a safeguard?
In addition to inhibiting the formation of the plaques, green tea may actually act in a proactive manner by breaking down plaques that are already in existence. This means that not only will it slow the formation of the plaques, but it may actually reverse the effects of these plaques as well. One study reported in the America Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a 54% decrease in the risk of Alzheimer's, dementia, and other forms of cognitive deterioration when the subjects regularly consumed green tea.
Green tea has even been linked with neurogenesis (the production of new neurons in the brain). This means that regular consumption of green tea could not only slow cognitive decline, but may even reverse some amount of decline which has already occurred.
Should You Encourage Your Loved One to Drink Green Tea?
Remember that more studies are necessary before scientists can precisely pinpoint the factor in green tea, which may be so useful in fighting Alzheimer's and other neurological conditions. At some point pharmaceutical companies may be able to isolate the specific compounds in green tea and use them to produce medications that could be useful in the fight against cognitive decline.
In the meantime, it may be worth considering encouraging your elderly loved one to begin drinking green tea on a regular basis. Of course, if you do this you need to keep in mind that many people will add sugar, creamer, and other things to these drinks. These additives can bring their own complications, so it's best if you can encourage your loved one to drink it without adding anything.
Keep in mind, too, that green tea does contain caffeine. The amount of caffeine in green tea is not too terribly high: measure for measure, green tea contains roughly one-third the amount of caffeine that coffee does. However, if your elderly loved one has a heart condition or is otherwise highly sensitive to stimulants you may want to take that into consideration.
As always, when beginning a new habit that can impact your health (or the health of your loved one) you should be sure to consult a doctor and make sure there won't be any unintended side effects.
Green tea shows real promise in providing another tool in the fight against Alzheimer's, dementia, and other age-related cognitive decline. Compounds in the tea bind to certain toxins in the brain to prevent those toxins from damaging brain cells. Further, ingredients in green tea act to slow down and possibly even reverse the formation of plaques in the brain. Further, green tea may stimulate the development of new neurons. If your elderly loved one is at risk for age-related cognitive decline it may be worth your while to consider encouraging him or her to begin consuming green tea on a regular basis.
Ahealthblog.com (website). A Cup of Tea Infographic. Available at http://www.ahealthblog.com/a-cup-of-tea-infographic.html.
Alzheimers.net (website). Benefits of Green Tea for Alzheimer's. July 28, 2014. Available at http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-07-28/benefits-of-drinking-green-tea/.
Downey, Michael. How Green Tea Protects Against Alzheimer's Disease. August, 2014. Available at http://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2014/8/How-Green-Tea-Protects-Against-Alzheimers-Disease/Page-01
Kuriyama, S., Hozawa, A., Ohmori, K., Shimazu, T., Matsui T. et al. (2006).. Green tea consumption and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study from the Tsurugaya Project 1. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83(2):355-61. Available online at http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/2/355.full.