Until I started to learn more and more about how specific nutrients affect the brain, I never fully appreciated how the liquids we drink affect the way memory works.
And while many professional nutrition experts still insist that individual foods are less important to your well-being than your overall diet, there are, in fact, some beverages that have what can only be called medicinal value.
On the bad side of the ledger, research shows that steady consumption of soft drinks does awful things to the body and to brain cells.
In contrast, green tea, with its wealth of natural phytochemicals, is really a brain health wonder. But there’s one green tea product it may be best to avoid.
One of the main problems with soft drinks is the high-fructose corn syrup that’s used as a sweetener. Food manufacturers love to use this syrup because it’s so cheap.
But your brain hates it.
Lab research shows, for instance, that getting big doses of high-fructose corn syrup can alter and damage hundreds of genes in the parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory and controlling metabolism (the way the body processes energy).
According to the scientists who have studied this damage, the genetic changes are not only linked to harmful inflammation but can raise your risk for depression, Parkinson’s disease and other brain maladies.1
In contrast, studies show that green tea can help save the brain from the kind of dysfunction fostered by fructose.
The key green tea ingredient for this benefit is EGCG – epigallocatechin-3-gallate), a substance classified as a catechin. Catechins are astringent, antioxidant phytochemicals found chiefly in tea, though, to a lesser extent, some are contained in apples, berries, red wine and chocolate.
In lab tests, it was shown that while high-fructose corn syrup could harm neurons in the brain, increasing their insulin resistance (keeping them from effectively using blood sugar) and slowing memory, the EGCG from green tea could reverse these effects.
Nourishes Your Neurons
Green tea’s ingredients help neurons become less insulin resistant. That’s crucial for keeping the brain functioning at full capacity.
A study in Israel, for example, shows that insulin resistance fogs the mind and is linked to a faster decline in memory as you age. That investigation, which tracked the health of about 500 people for twenty years, found that those with the most profound insulin resistance were at the greatest risk of running into significant cognitive complications.2
This should not be a surprise to long-timer readers of this newsletter. We’ve often called Alzheimer’s disease “Type 3 diabetes”. And insulin resistance is the first stage of diabetes.
In addition, other studies have found a wide range of ways that the EGCG in green tea can help the brain –
- Tests in Japan show that green tea may lower oxidative stress in brain cells, thereby helping them function more effectively.3
- Research at the University of Basel in Switzerland shows that green tea improves the connectivity among neurons in the brain and boosts memory.4
- A study on the amino acids in tea shows that they can aid in the development of healthier brain function.5
- Research at the University of Kentucky indicates that by stimulating the body’s increased production of its own antioxidants, green tea can protect brain cells, and other parts of the body, against some of the harmful effects of pollutants.6
As you can see, you don’t need to be a genius to understand that green tea is great for the brain. The scientific evidence for this has been piling up for years.
And if mainstream doctors understood its powers, they’d be prescribing it for just about everybody.
There’s only one caution. For the time being, I don’t recommend green tea supplements because they may be somewhat toxic. I think more study is needed. But the drink is fine, and the more of it you drink, the better.