Great supplement, but drink it, don’t take the pills
October 14th, 2016 by NHI
Scientists are hard at work developing new drugs to neutralize a major cause of Alzheimer’s.
Two enzymes called AchE and BchE break down acetylcholine, an essential neurotransmitter that communicates information between nerve cells in the brain. As we age, we produce less acetylcholine, and with this decline, our memories start to fade.
Drugs that could block these enzymes would be a significant boost to preserving memories. In fact, the best-selling (and largely ineffective) Alzheimer’s drugs Aricept and Namenda are AchE inhibitors.
But a study published earlier this year showed there’s no need to develop drugs (unless your motive is to make bundles of money). An inexpensive over-the-counter solution is available everywhere.
This legal “drug” is best known as a defense against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and autoimmune disorders. But in the future it may become more notable for its ability to protect against dementia.
It’s green tea.
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Multiple Benefits in Lab Studies
In the new study, the researchers found that polyphenols in green tea bind with both AchE and BchE. This stopped the enzymes breaking down acetylcholine, thereby increasing levels of the neurotransmitter.
And this is just one way green tea benefits cognition. There are many others. In recent years scientists have found EGCG, the most abundant polyphenol in green tea and also the most potent, works to protect neurons in nine different ways.
Green tea, besides preserving acetylcholine, can also prevent the formation of dangerous amyloid plaques that damage and kill brain cells. It can also break down existing plaques and trigger the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, a key area for memory.
That’s a lot of brain-healthy support for one drink.
Green Tea Reduces Risk of
Cognitive Decline by More Than Half
Thousands of lab studies are all very well, but what we really need to know is whether green tea is effective in people.
As recently as 2006 there was no human data available, so Japanese researchers looked at the association between green tea consumption and cognitive function in 1003 people aged 70 or over.
They found that those who drank two or more cups of green tea per day reduced their risk of cognitive decline by 54% as compared with a reduction of only 13% for those drinking black or oolong tea. Those in the study who only drank coffee saw their cognition decline slightly. (I doubt if the finding about coffee will hold up in further study.)
In 2011 scientists tested green tea extract together with l-threonine, another component of green tea, on 91 people with mild cognitive impairment or MCI, a condition that’s often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. The extract was found to significantly improve memory and attention compared to the placebo group.
While these studies are interesting, they don’t provide solid evidence for effectiveness, so scientists went one step further by using neuroimaging scans.
Watching The Brain in Real Time
Volunteers consumed a drink containing either green tea extract or placebo. They then had their brains scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging while completing tasks designed to stimulate memory.
Scientists witnessed a significant boost in activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the green tea group. This is the area of the brain needed for processing working memory. It facilitates tasks such as reasoning, learning and understanding language.
A follow-up study by the same research group found green tea extract enhanced frontoparietal connectivity during a working memory task.
The frontoparietal system communicates with many systems throughout the brain and is involved with highly adaptive control processes. It’s thought to play a critical role in promoting and maintaining mental health.
There’s every reason to believe from a solid base of lab research, as well as from watching its real time effects on the brain, that green tea is the real deal, with one word of caution.
While studies usually use extracts of green tea, these may not be as safe as drinking it. Within herbal supplements, the extract has been implicated in many cases of liver injury although no direct association has been found. Our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, decided not to offer green tea extract capsules after looking at the research indicating toxicity.
Until we learn more, it’s best to get all the benefits of green tea from the drink itself.