Green Tea and the Brain: 1 Super Healthy Match(a)!

green tea and the brain
green tea and the brain

Green tea and matcha both come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Matcha can be thought of as powdered green tea, so today I’m covering both of them interchangeably.

An extensive body of research supports green tea’s many health benefits. Today my focus is on what I’ve learned about green tea and the brain.

Green tea’s remarkable brain-boosting benefits come from its many molecules. 

Green tea and matcha are rich in:

  • L-theanine
  • caffeine
  • chlorophyll
  • lutein
  • vitamin K

and a class of flavonoids called catechins.

A study in 2019 by researchers from the Suzhou Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Technology sought to understand the impacts of catechins on the brain.

Fifteen volunteers underwent two brain imaging sessions while in a restful state.  In the first, they drank water before going through an MRI. Before the second session, they switched to drinking green tea.

The researchers then looked for areas of the brain which became more active after drinking green tea. They found associations with memory, and concluded:

“This is in agreement with the previous research according to which green tea plays a positive role in learning and concentration.”

The research team wasn’t the first to use an MRI in examining the connections between green tea and the brain. A 2017 systematic review listed the “activation of working memory seen in functional MRI” as one of green tea’s benefits.

They also listed “reduction of anxiety” and improvements in “memory and attention” as additional benefits.

Green Tea and the Brain: The Matcha Effect

A randomized, placebo-controlled, single-blind study looked at matcha green tea and the brain. In four separate test sessions, 23 participants consumed one of the following:

  • A matcha-enriched snack bar
  • A matcha-enriched beverage
  • A placebo snack bar
  • A placebo beverage

They then underwent cognitive performance testing.

Their tallied test results confirmed that the matcha-enriched beverage outperformed the placebo beverage and both snack bars. Drinking the matcha increased their speed of attention and improved their memory.

How much green tea or matcha does it take to boost memory?

In attempting to answer this question, a group of researchers in 2017 conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies looking at tea consumption and cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Based on data from seventeen studies with nearly 50,000 participants, their findings were nothing short of amazing.  Undeniably, dementia risk dropped as green-tea intake rose:

  • Drinking 100 ml (about 3.6ounces) a day lowered the risk of cognitive disorders by an average of 6 percent.
  •  Drinking 300 ml (about 11 ounces) lowered the risk by about 19 percent.
  • Drinking 500 ml (about 18 ounces) a day lowered the risk by 29 percent.

These “dose-response” findings are a great reason to consider drinking matcha! Why?

Another meta-analysis including 49 studies concluded that matcha’s concentrated powdered form leads to “…  much higher intake of green tea phytochemicals compared to regular green tea.”

The researchers also noted matcha’s “… clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.”

The Latest Research on Green Tea and the Brain

Matcha was also the focus of this recent research on green tea and the brain. Published in April 2021, the randomized, placebo-controlled enrolled 42 adults aged 25 to 34.

The researchers used a test specifically designed to cause “mild acute psychological stress.” For two weeks before testing, the participants took nine matcha or placebo capsules daily.

Matcha powder: green tea on steroids!

The test results were clear: In the test areas evaluating executive and social-cognitive functions, the adults who had taken the matcha performed significantly better.

They exhibited improvements in their:

  • simple reaction time.
  • rapid information processing accuracy
  • mental fatigue and tiredness.
  • ability to recognize positive emotions

The research on the benefits of green tea and the brain is clear. Reach for green tea or matcha and experience the brain empowering results.

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