A new study conducted by the College of Health Sciences at Rush University in Chicago has good news for tea drinkers. Researchers found that drinking one or two cups of tea a day as part of a healthy diet could help to stave off Alzheimer’s and reduce the risk of the disease.
All about the flavonols
Researchers followed 921 people without dementia for about six years, starting around age 81. During the study, 220 people were diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. What separated those who developed the disease from those who didn’t? The amount of flavonols found in their diets.
Flavonols are a type of flavonoid — phytochemicals found in plant pigments that are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests that flavonoids help quell inflammation, and that in turn may reduce plaque buildup inside arteries and the brain.
Flavonols are not only found in tea. They’re also present in kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli, oranges, tomatoes, pears, olive oil, wine and tomato sauce. While 15% of people who ate the most flavonols developed Alzheimer’s, this number rose to 54% among those who consumed the least. This difference remained constant even after researchers accounted for other risk factors for Alzheimer’s like diabetes, a prior heart attack or stroke, or high blood pressure.
Diet is still the key
“Eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more tea could be a fairly inexpensive and easy way for people to help stave off Alzheimer’s dementia,” said study author Thomas M. Holland, MD, of Rush University.
Dr. Ada Garcia, a lecturer in public health nutrition at the University of Glasgow, also highlighted the importance of diet. “It is important to remember that consuming isolated flavonols or extracts of flavonol-rich foods, for example tea extracts, will not work in isolation to reduce risk of disease but high doses can also have negative effects.”
So eating junk food while sipping a cupping Earl Grey won’t be that effective. But it’s good to know that your daily tea habit, alongside a healthy diet, can have a strong effect on reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. I’ll put the kettle on.