Tea for two - or three - reasons

We’ve already tried to get you to think about trading your iced caramel mocha for a cup of tea because of the naturally occurring antioxidant properties of tea leaves. Here’s yet another reason: Drinking a cup of green or black tea may actually help you remember where you left your keys.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have released a new study detailing how green and black tea can actually improve your memory. Dr. Ed Okello and his team have located compounds in the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which produces green, black and oolong teas, which block the activity of brain chemicals that are associated with memory decline.

One such brain chemical is acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is involved in lots of activities in the brain and the rest of the body. For example, it triggers muscle contractions. In the central nervous system, it is involved in wakefulness, attentiveness, anger, aggression, sexuality and thirst, among other things.

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a lack of acetylcholine in certain regions of the brain. But decreases in acetylcholine also occur in the aging process generally. That’s the bad news. The idea is simple enough: raising chemical levels in the brain improves communication among the various neurotransmitters (the brain’s messenger system), which in turn improves general memory.

What could be done with complicated, often expensive drugs may instead be accomplished with a simple dunk of a green tea bag.

Further, tea delivers a double whammy. It not only boosts levels of acetylcholine. It blocks another substance that is found in the protein deposits that gunk up the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

"We can all expect to experience slight memory loss as we age, like forgetting our grocery lists," explains gerontologist Bonnie Kantor of Ohio State University. "The goal is to work on ways to promote cognitive vitality so you never have to get to the stage of arriving at a grocery store and forgetting what one does there."

One way may be to reduce "oxidative stress" - the damage done by free radicals of oxygen, destructive molecules given off by normal metabolic processes and by toxins. Here’s where tea measures up once again. Compounds called flavonoids found in green and black teas appear to be effective antioxidants, especially helpful in countering brain damage done by free radicals.

For Dr. Okello, the next step is to find out exactly which compounds in tea leaves are responsible for effects he has identified. His goal is to develop a medicinal tea that will fend off Alzheimer’s disease and general memory loss.

"Our findings are particularly exciting as tea is already a very popular drink, it is inexpensive, and there do not seem to be any adverse side effects," says Okello. "Still, we expect it will be several years until we are able to produce anything marketable."

So the next time you can’t remember whether or not you turned the oven off, instead of beating yourself up, why not blame it on your acetylcholine levels, or think about fighting free radicals, and grab an extra cuppa for the road.

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.