It’s time to pay better attention to the health benefits in tea

After attending the Sixth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health, which was held virtually on 26 April, one thing was clear: I need to drink more tea. The half-day symposium explored several areas of health, from cardiovascular to immunity, but what really intrigued me was the research on cognition.

Professor and psychologist Louise Dye, Human Appetite and Research Unit, Leeds University, sparked my curiosity as she shared her findings on tea and cognition. Her research explores how food impacts cognitive development with the hope of discovering how to optimise cognitive performance through diet and nutrition.

Could tea be that magical elixir that could help with this decline? The answer is still inconclusive.

Dye discussed several studies, which despite their differences in methodology, all demonstrate that there appears to be an improvement in both attention and working memory when participants drink tea.

One Japanese study revealed that matcha had a positive impact on attention. The study looked at the impact of matcha on cognition for both young adults and older adults, providing an interesting perspective on the impact of tea on the aging brain. The study found that two grams of matcha over two weeks, for the younger adults, helped to maintain attention. While, in the older adults (ages 50-69), a single dose improved attention, with repeated dosing over 12 weeks increasing their work capacity. The study concluded that matcha combined with caffeine improved both attention and work performance under stress.

“Tea might be quite an important nutrient to help us with attention,” she emphasised. The challenge is that it’s still unclear which components (ECEG, caffeine, or l-theanine) in tea are causing this positive impact.

Dye revealed these findings while simultaneously presenting another point to ponder: could it potentially be tea’s positive influence on stress reduction that is creating that positive impact on attention? There is no question that stress influences our decision-making skills and our cognitive function, but can a cup of tea help with this?

Having a cup of tea might be beneficial simply because it reduces the cortisol response to stress. L-theanine, specifically, has been shown to attenuate cardiovascular responses to acute stress. Green tea, in particular, can moderate the resting state alpha activity helping achieve an increased relaxed state.

Pursuant to the tea symposium, I decided to launch my own tea study, choosing to sip tea throughout the day and silently observe its effects. Did I feel more focused and alert? Were my stress levels reduced? Overall, it was a productive day, but was that because of the tea? It’s hard to say, but if there is one thing that I can take away from the conference is that having a few cups of tea a day may help to keep that doctor away.

  • Anne-Marie Hardie, freelance writer, professor and speaker based in Barrie, Ontario.
    Keep in touch via email: [email protected].


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