In addition to being heart healthy and a possible weapon against cancer, gum disease and glaucoma, new evidence shows that green tea could also be a powerful brain booster.
The research out of China is the latest study to tout the health benefits of this Asian tonic, consumed mainly in Japan and China and now ubiquitous around the Western world.
In a study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research and released this week, a team of Chinese researchers showed that an organic chemical found in green tea, epigallocatechin-3 gallate or EGCG, could improve memory and spatial learning by boosting the generation of brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis.
The compound EGCG is already known for its antioxidant properties. But in the Chinese study, EGCG was also shown to be beneficial against age-related degenerative diseases with particular impact on the hippocampus, the part of the brain which processes information from short-term to long-term memory, scientists said.
For their study, researchers ran tests on two groups of mice, one of which was fed EGCG, and the other acting as a control group.
The mice were then trained for several days to find a visible and an invisible platform within a maze.
What researchers found was that the mice treated with the green tea compound required less time to find the hidden platform compared to their counterparts, showing that EGCG can enhance learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory, they said.
"We have shown that the organic chemical EGCG acts directly to increase the production of neural progenitor cells, both in glass tests and in mice," said lead author Yun Bai. "This helps us to understand the potential for EGCG, and green tea which contains it, to help combat degenerative diseases and memory loss."
But while green tea may tout antioxidant properties, a large-scale study out of Japan found, after analyzing 54,000 women, that the drink does little to protect against one particular kind of cancer -- breast cancer.