Green Tea Prevents Alzheimer’s

July 14, 2014

Green Tea Prevents Alzheimer’s 

 Reference: Kuriyama Am J Clin Nutrition 

 Right now Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in America, affecting about one-third of folks over age 80.   Going forward, the prediction is that it will soon affect some 50% of adults in their later 80s.   That’s not a very happy thought. The mechanism of developing Alzheimer’s is not completely understood. The leading theory of its cause is that plaque formation with misshapen amyloid protein gradually starves cells to death. Another strong explanation is that the frontal brain becomes very resistant to insulin, with brain cells being unable to take up glucose. 

Certainly, there is a strong connection between being mildly glucose intolerant and eventual Alzheimer’s risk. There are those who even call for Alzheimer’s being called Type III diabetes. Somewhere in those mechanisms is inflammation caused by oxidizing forces in the brain.   Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules get supercharged with an extra electron and damage vital tissues. To neutralize those oxidizing events, cells use “antioxidants” that have the ability to soak up those extra electrons and dispose of them satisfactorily. 

 That’s where this study comes in. In the Japanese Tsurugaya Aging Project, 1003 adults over age 70 were given a “Mini-Mental Status Exam” which gives scores up to 30. The next step was to query how much green tea was consumed on a regular basis.   For green tea consumption, the odds reduction of 1-3 cups of tea a week was zero.   But for 4-6 cups a week, there was a 38% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk. For more than 2 cups a day, there was a 54% risk reduction. 

Black or oolong tea had a less but still positive effect.   Coffee had no benefit.  Now, asking someone with dementia facts about their lives may be prone to error because of the loss of memory, but these questions were very simple and involved regular daily habits, which might be the best data we can collect. How does green tea do it?   Green tea has a remarkable amount of antioxidants called catechins.   The most potent catechin is called EGCG.   

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science gives a hint on how EGCG works.   EGCG was found to “mitigate” the toxicity of amyloid quite dramatically by changing the shape of the amyloid complexes making them unable to bind to other misshapen proteins.   It also helps new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus, where memory is mediated. To test the effect of green tea on the brain of young volunteers with no evidence of Alzheimer’s, another study published just last year in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In it, green tea was given by NG tube (to disallow taste) in a randomized trial on 4 different occasions and brain scanning by MRI scan was conducted. In the parts of the brain associated with memory, green tea was shown to increase activity in real time. 

 Green tea isn’t the only antioxidant that helps ameliorate Alzheimer’s. We have written about turmeric as well.   Another very potent antioxidant.   Suggests a trend, doesn’t it! 

 WWW. What will work for me.   I drink green tea some of the time. Maybe I should have it a bit more if I can just remember to buy it at the grocery store. Write it down, and get some yourself.   Once you are in the daily habit, have a big mug that equals two cups. Then, you can remember this newsletter. 

 Pop Quiz

  1. Green tea contains many potent anti-oxidants that soak up and neutralize the damaging effects of “oxidants”? T or F                     Answer:  True
  1. Green tea’s family of antioxidants are called catechins of which EGCG is the most potent. T or F                        Answer:   True again
  1. Drinking over two cups a day of green tea will reduce Alzheimer’s in the future by as much as 60%. T or F                    Answer:   False. It is associated with it but that’s not proof it will reduce it. It might prevent it but associations are not solid proof. They are a first step and may equal proof eventually.
  1. Green tea works better than coffee at preventing Alzheimer’s. T or F                     Answer:   True
  1. Green tea and curry might make a great Anti-Alzheimer’s combination. T or F               Answer:   True
  1. EGCG helps grow new brain cells. T or F                   Answer:  True, right in the part of the brain that processes memory.                                                                                                                       Written by Dr Whitcomb who practices at Brookfield Longevity