Tea as a means to healthier brain function? Yes please!! Boy was I happy when I read the headline “Daily consumption of tea may protect the elderly from cognitive decline”.
As a tea lover, okay fanatic, any research that suggests I continue my love affair requires my utmost attention. A recent study done by Dr. Feng and his associates in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the National University of Singapore showed a 50% lower rate of cognitive decline in elderly that are long time consumers of tea. Is this why at 93 my grandfather can still remember not only yesterday but everything from his childhood?
The theory is that long term tea consumption benefits are due to the bioactive compounds found in tea leaves. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of these compounds help protect the brain from neurodegeneration and vascular damage.
Why is this so Important to Me?
While I have not really worried about cognitive function I am very aware of it. Research shows us that adult onset of celiac symptoms often coincides with brain atrophy and dementia (presents in men more often than women; 3:2). The older you are when celiac related symptoms appear the higher the chance of cognitive impairment. In some cases the removal of gluten increases brain functioning, though not back to normal functioning; in most cases the removal of gluten halts further degeneration.
This is scary because many of us walk around not knowing that we have celiac disease. While symptoms are often present they are so random that it usually takes a large event to get our attention that something’s wrong. How much smarter would I be if childhood symptoms had not been ignored or chalked up to “it’s a stage”?! Haha! I joke but for some this could be very true.
Many Celiacs suffer from some form of nutritional deficit; with the most common being iron, B12 and folate all of which can contribute to mental and brain health.
- Iron is an integral component in the creation of haemoglobin within the body, a deficiency in this mineral has been shown to slow brain function (particularly in women).
- B12, otherwise known as cobalamin, is essential in the development of nerve and brain cells. It is also extremely important in overall proper brain functioning.
- Folate (B9 or folic acid) is not only important for mom’s to be as it is vital in the prevention of neural tube defects but is also vital for proper brain function. Adequate levels of folate contribute to mental and emotional health.
Interestingly the supplementation of these nutrients to the cognitively impaired elderly did not help brain function, while a gluten free diet did (in some cases). This suggests that the impairment has something to do with gluten and not just the nutritional deficit.
Can Tea Actually Help?
While there are no studies relating tea to celiac cognitive impairment it stands to reason that any preventative measures are a good idea! Of course if you’re reading this and you have celiac disease you are already aware and have removed gluten from the diet. My worries are always contamination issues. With the standard 20 ppm acceptable limit of cross contamination you have to wonder if over time these tiny bits are causing harm. In fact many people react to this limit.
So I say drink tea…just in case!
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