If you want to prevent dementia in old age, you should drink a daily cup of tea.
That’s according to new research, which found drinking black (such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey), green or oolong tea reduced the risk of cognitive impairment in older people by 50%.
In those who were genetically at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the risk was reduced even further (by 86%).
The findings add to a number of existing studies which suggest tea is beneficial to health.
The new study, involving 957 Chinese seniors aged 55 and over, has found that regular consumption of tea lowers the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.
People who carried the gene APOE e4 - who are genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease - were found to experience a reduction in cognitive impairment risk by as much as 86%.
The research team also discovered that the protective role of tea consumption on brain function is not limited to a particular type of tea – so long as the tea is brewed from tea leaves, such as green, black or oolong tea.
“While the study was conducted on Chinese elderly, the results could apply to other races as well,” said lead author Professor Feng Lei from the National University of Singapore.
“Our findings have important implications for dementia prevention. Despite high quality drug trials, effective pharmacological therapy for neurocognitive disorders such as dementia remains elusive and current prevention strategies are far from satisfactory.
“Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life.”
The long term benefit of tea consumption is thought to be due to bioactive compounds found in tea leaves. These compounds can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
It is thought that other bioactive properties in tea may protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration.
“Our understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited so we do need more research to find out definitive answers,” added Professor Feng Lei.
In response to the study, Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “As lovely as it would be to discover that drinking a humble cup of tea could prevent you from developing memory and thinking problems, so far the research linking the two has been inconclusive.
“This study identifies useful information about tea-drinking and cognitive function that warrants further investigation, but we are a long way off understanding the effect that Britain’s favourite past-time has on our brain health.
“Evidence shows that the best ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia are keeping a healthy, balanced diet, not smoking and keeping as physically active as possible.”
Since 2010, the nation’s tea consumption has decreased by 19%, despite the fact that various studies have highlighted its health benefits.
A 2015 study, for example, found that women in their 70s and 80s lived longer if they had, on average, two cups of tea per day.
Meanwhile research from Newcastle University found that three cups of tea a day could provide kids with enough fluoride to prevent tooth decay.