Green tea is a rich source of flavonoids, which support healthy inflammatory balance and protect your body against free radicals promoting general health and longevity. However, mounting research suggests that compounds in green tea, including EGCG (epigallocatehin gallate), have particular promise in supporting brain health.
According to new research from Switzerland, men who drank a beverage containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract prior to solving working memory tasks experienced enhanced cognitive function. It appears that green tea extract increases the brain’s connectivity, or the influence that one brain area exerts on another.
This lead to improvements in cognitive performance including significantly better working memory after drinking the green tea extract. According to the researchers:
“Our findings provide first evidence for the putative beneficial effect of green tea on cognitive functioning, in particular, on working memory processing at the neural system level by suggesting changes in short-term plasticity of parieto-frontal brain connections.”
A similar study in 2012 showed similarly promising results. Healthy volunteers consumed a drink with or without the addition of green tea extract and then performed a working memory task. MRI images revealed that the drink that included green tea extract increased activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex region of the brain, which mediates working memory processing. Animal studies have also found that EGCG increases the production of neural progenitor cells in the hippocampus—an area of the brain responsible for processing information from short-term to long-term memory.
Furthermore, this effect was dose dependent–the larger the dose of the extract, the greater the effect on the brain. So while drinking green tea is certainly beneficial, this is one case where a supplement like green tea extract can provide a larger dose that may be difficult to achieve via your diet.
If you are a tea drinker, it’s better to brew your own at home. One study found that the level of antioxidants in bottled teas is so low you’d have to drink 20 bottles of some processed, store-bought teas to get the same amount from just one cup of home-brewed green tea. It’s safe to say, however, that whether you consume it in tea or extract form (or both), green tea is one functional beverage that’s great for your health. And it’s not only your brain that stands to benefit.
Green tea has also been highlighted for much more, including supporting cardiovascular health, promoting healthy gums and even helping to maintain a normal body weight.