Green Tea May Help Fight Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s Disease
Green tea has been much studied for health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. As they say, what is good for the heart is often good for the brain, and some research has linked some of the active compounds in green tea with improved memory and the possibility of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Polyphenol Compounds in Green Tea Benefit Many Brain Functions
The main components of green tea that are thought to help the brain are polyphenols and flavonoids. The most active polyphenol in green tea is epigalochatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG which inhibits the loss of neurons by interfering with a potent neurotoxin known as MPTP, a chemical that specifically affects dopamine production and receptors.
EGCG is also thought to significantly reduce the formation of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain. An abnormal buildup of beta-amyloid plaques is implicated in the nerve damage and memory loss seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Flavonoids are antioxidants that are believed to help prevent damage caused by free radicals in the body as a result of oxidative stress. The brain is particularly susceptible to free radical damage because of its high metabolic rate, according to researchers from Vanderbilt University. The high use of oxygen in the brain leads to the generation of a large number of free radicals which can eventually lead to cell damage.
Green tea may also be beneficial in reducing Alzheimer’s risk by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which breaks down the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). Acetylcholine concentrations tend to decrease as a result of the normal aging process, leading to sporadic lapses in short-term memory, however in Alzheimer’s disease, ACh levels can drop by up to 90% causing significant loss of cognitive and behavioral function.
But before you go out and buy green tea supplements, note that a study conducted in 2002 found that green tea works best at lower concentrations, such as that found in two cups a day of green tea beverage, and at high concentrations (such as those in dietary supplements) was found to actually promote oxidation.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. Since 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association has been the leader in helping make the fight against the disease a national priority.