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The humble cup of tea at the heart of dementia and diabetes research

A new review of existing research is giving Australians and the rest of the world even more reason to enjoy a cup of tea as results show it can help prevent a number of conditions including Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

A cup of tea could potentially lower risk factors associated with diabetes and Alzheimer's (Source: Shutterstock)
A cup of tea could potentially lower risk factors associated with diabetes and Alzheimer's (Source: Shutterstock)

Researchers from Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University’s (ECU) School of Medical and Health Sciences have examined more than 100 studies from around the world that have looked at tea consumption.

As part of the results, it was found that black, white and green tea can reduce the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s and diabetes which could “offer some hope” to the more than 65 million people expected to be living with Alzheimer’s by 2030 and the annually growing number of deaths attributed to diabetes.

ECU Centre for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care Research Fellow Dr Binosha Fernando says the review offers new lines of enquiry for scientists.

“There is strong evidence that tea consumption can lower levels of beta amyloid b (Aβ) in the brain, the build up of which can cause Alzheimer’s disease,” she says.

“In particular a number of studies have found that the flavonoid Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is found in tea, can reduce levels of Aβ in the brain, which could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The research also examined the evidence that tea consumption could be protective against diabetes.

 “Both population-based studies as well as human clinical trials have shown a link between tea consumption and a reduced risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes,” Dr Fernando says.

“One study found that drinking tea could result in a significant reduction in the symptoms of diabetes, including a 15-fold increase in insulin activity. Low insulin is a major risk factor for diabetes.”

While the results are proving positive, Dr Fernando says more research is needed.

 “Overall, tea appears to offer a safe and acceptable approach toward lowering the risk factors associated with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” she says. 

“What is needed now is more randomised, clinical trials which are placebo controlled using standardised doses to determine exactly the manner, type and amount of tea required to achieve these beneficial results.”

In addition to the new review into the research, ECU’s Centre for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care has also recently identified depression and trouble sleeping as potential risk factors for Alzheimer’s. 

The Centre is also currently investigating if a combination of the spice circimun and fish oil can potentially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

  ‘Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease: Can Tea Phytochemicals Play a Role in Prevention?’ was recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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