Protective Power of Tea

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She was yelling at the aides? Not possible!

Yet. . . . Accusations of conspiracy. Demands for apologies for perceived slights. Refusals to comply. The normal filters gone.

Coupled with frailty and extreme loss of mobility.

My husband and I have joined the family of those who, sadly, understand the difference between delusions and hallucinations. Where the word “sundowning” speaks multitudes. Where we long to avoid following the same path—and losing ourselves—as we age.

Of course many research dollars have been funneled toward studies into dementia—its cause, treatment, and prevention. Links between physical health/mobility and dementia have been considered. But do people who remain more physically active stave off dementia—or—does dementia cause people to be less physically active? Which is cause and which is effect?

With its myriad health benefits, tea has been studied in relation to both physical and cognitive disability, with some intriguing results.

Green Tea: Health Benefits

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South Korea Seogwang Sencha

Drinking green tea lowers the likelihood of dying by stroke or pneumonia; it also lowers the risk of cognitive impairment, depression, psychological distress, osteoporosis, cardiovascular issues.

So, as the authors of one study (Tomata et al.) framed it: “Because all of the above conditions are major causes of functional disability . . . it is expected that green tea consumption would contribute to disability prevention”—and they designed an experiment to test this.

Physical and Social and Cognitive!

The study seems thorough, with responses from nearly 14,000 people (Japanese, at least 65 years old) analyzed, adjusted for possible confounding factors. One of the tables of the resulting data is quite compelling—showing that those who drank greater amounts (17 or more ounces per day) of green tea had lower rates of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, liver disease, and body pain.

AND, those who drank more green tea reported higher levels of social support systems, were more engaged in community activities (such as socializing, volunteering, and exercise), had better motor function, and had better cognitive activity!

Functional disability can be caused by many things, but in the elderly, stroke, dementia, osteoporosis, and depression are common. The authors point out that drinking green tea protects to some extent against all of these, and cite another study that suggests that the polyphenols of green tea increase leg strength, which would clearly help prevent falls and frailty in the elderly.

Because the researchers found no similar correlation of functional disability with black or oolong tea or with coffee, they posit that there is a component specific to green tea that has these effects. Polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties and are found in greater amounts in green tea, may be that component. In fact, there has been a great deal of research into the role of polyphenols in tea, and of course many of us are asking:

What About Black Tea?

If you prefer drinking black tea, no worries. I will be taking a look at another fascinating study on black tea, showing its positive effects, as well as a closer look at polyphenols.

But for now, it’s tea time!


Source: “Green Tea Consumption and the Risk of Incident Functional Disability in Elderly Japanese: The Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study,” by Yasutake Tomata et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 95:732–39. 2012. 

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