By Tad Turgeon, Research Investigator, NSP Health Sciences and Educational Services
Green tea extract has been touted for its health benefits, which are primarily linked to the antioxidant compound known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
EGCG is attributed with most of the beneficial properties of green tea such as its anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant properties and chemopreventive properties. Researchers have long known of green tea’s benefit in supporting cognitive function, but this had been attributed to the way the caffeine content in green tea stimulates the central nervous system.
Now, new research published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research reveals an exciting discovery on the way EGCG works in the brain.
The brain is a dense mass of neurons which send and receive information all over the body. The ability to perform cognitive tasks such as learning and memory recall is dependent on proper growth and maintenance of existing neurons. Since neurons naturally die off as we age, anything that promotes or protects neurons is considered to support cognitive function.
Affect of EGCG on the Brain
In this new study, Chinese investigators developed a protocol to administer EGCG to mice and then monitor both neurogenesis (creation of new neurons) and cognitive function.
The results of the study suggest that in both test tube cultures and live mice, EGCG was able to stimulate the formation of new brain neurons. Additionally, mice treated with EGCG were able to navigate a maze more quickly than untreated mice. This confirmed the hypothesis that EGCG not only increased the number of brain neurons but also improved cognitive function.
This data is important for serious neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease that have no cure or treatment and are characterized by the loss of function or death of neurons in the body.
In summary, EGCG from green tea is not only a protective compound for the cardiovascular, structural and nervous systems, it can help promote brain health by stimulating growth of new nerve cells in the body.
Wang, Y., Li, M., Xu, X., Song, M., Tao, H. and Bai, Y. (2012), Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) promotes neural progenitor cell proliferation and sonic hedgehog pathway activation during adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 56: 1292–1303. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201200035