Beijing: Scientists now have an explanation for why green tea is good for the brain -- it lies in the chemical properties that affect the production of brain cells, improving memory and spatial learning.
"Green tea is a popular beverage across the world," said Yun Bai, professor from the Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China.
"There has been plenty of scientific attention on its use in helping prevent cardiovascular diseases, but now there is emerging evidence that its chemical properties may impact cellular mechanisms in the brain."
Yun's team focused on the organic chemical EGCG, (epigallocatechin-3 gallate) a key property of green tea. While EGCG is a known antioxidant, the team believed it can also have a beneficial effect against age-related degenerative diseases, the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reports.
"We proposed that EGCG can improve cognitive function by impacting the generation of neuron cells, a process known as neurogenesis," said Yun.
"We focused our research on the hippocampus, the part of the brain which processes information from short-term to long-term memory."
The team found that ECGC boosts the production of neural progenitor cells, which like stem cells can adapt, or differentiate, into various types of cells. The team then used lab mice to discover if this increased cell production gave an advantage to memory or spatial learning, according to a Medical University statement.
"We ran tests on two groups of mice, one which had imbibed ECGC and a control group (without ECGC)," said Yun.
"First the mice were trained for three days to find a visible platform in their maze. Then they were trained for seven days to find a hidden platform."
The team found that the ECGC treated mice required less time to find the hidden platform. Overall the results revealed that EGCG enhances learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.