Green tea possesses chemical properties that increase the production of brain cells, providing benefits for memory and spatial learning, suggests a new study.
Green tea, a popular Chinese beverage, has long been believed to be good for the memory, but until now, there was insufficient evidence to support this theory.
The research team, led by Professor Yun Bai of the Third Military Medical University, Chongquing, China focused on the organic chemical EGCG (epigallocatechin-3 gallate) which is abundant in green tea. EGCG is a known anti-oxidant and the researchers theorise that it can protect against age-related degenerative diseases.
“We proposed that EGCG can improve cognitive function by impacting the generation of neurons, a process known as neurogenesis,” said Bai.
The researchers discovered that EGCG increased the production of neural progenitor cells which can differentiate into various types of brain cells. Using laboratory mice, they investigated whether this brain cell boost improved performance in spatial learning and memory tests.
“We ran tests on two groups of mice, one which had imbibed EGCG and a control group. First the mice were trained for three days to find a visible platform in their maze. Then they were trained for seven days to find a hidden platform,” Bai explained.
The EGCE mice took less time to find the hidden platform suggesting that EGCG enhances learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.
“We have shown that the organic chemical EGCG acts directly to increase the production of neural progenitor cells. This helps us to understand the potential for EGCG and green tea which contains it, to help combat degenerative diseases and memory loss,” concluded Bai.
The research in published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research as part of a collection of articles on the theme of food science and technology.