Several studies have found that regular tea drinking can reduce the symptoms of depression, at least among seniors. The latest investigation, by researchers from the National University of Singapore and Shanghai’s Fudan University, looked at tea drinking habits among 13,026 individuals in China aged 65 and older who were participants in a healthy longevity survey. The investigators tracked each individual’s history of tea drinking from age 60 until the time he or she was assessed. They saw what they termed a “virtually universal link” between tea drinking and lower reports of depression, although they found that these benefits were strongest for men between the ages of 65 and 79 who reported consuming tea almost every day since the age of 60. These men also exhibited better cognitive function than those who consumed less tea. Other factors related to a lower risk of depression included living in an urban setting, being educated, married, financially comfortable, in better health, and socially engaged.
A positive link between tea and a lower risk of depression in China also emerged from a review of 11 studies that included data on 22,817 participants published in 2015. Here, researchers determined that individuals who drank the most tea had a lower risk of depression and that drinking three cups a day decreased the risk of depression by 37 percent.
Another study published in June 2019 found evidence of the “positive contribution of tea drinking” to brain structure and suggested a protective effect of tea on the age-related decline in brain organization. The researchers concluded that tea drinking might be a simple lifestyle choice to benefit brain health.
Even earlier research from Singapore suggested that drinking tea daily can help cut the risk of dementia in half among people age 55 and older and reduce it even more among those genetically at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It showed that the more tea an individual drank, the stronger the protective effect. What kind of tea the participants consumed – black, green or oolong – didn’t matter, as long as it was real tea brewed from leaves of the Camillia sinensis plant. The researchers attributed the reduced risk of cognitive problems to the bioactive compounds in tea, including catechins, teaflavins, thearubigins and L-theanine, all of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential that may help protect the brain. However, they wrote that their understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms underlying the reduced risk is “still very limited.”
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Qiushi Feng et al, “Association between tea consumption and depressive symptom among Chinese older adults,” BMX Geriatrics, September 4, 2019