How About A Nice Cup of (Green) Tea

A recent report issued in December 2009 says Japanese researchers have found that green tea can help lift depression in the elderly. Green tea benefits include a powerful source of antioxidants and many other health perks that have long been studied. Now it has been found that the brew can ease the late-life depression that is so common among seniors.

Depression is a mental state that is characterized by pessimism, a sense of inadequacy, despondency, and lethargy. In seniors, depression can raise the risk for the development of many illnesses, may worsen preexisting medical conditions and elevate mortality rates.

Potential Benefit

A team of researchers at Sendai, Japan’s Tohoku University Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering studied green tea consumption in the elderly to assess the potential benefit of the tea in relieving psychological stress. Lead author of the study, Dr. Kaijun Niu, led his colleagues to examine 1,058 Japanese seniors aged 70 and over who showed mild to severe symptoms of depression. Almost 34% of the men and 39% of the women were found to have some symptoms of sadness, while 20% of the males and 24% of the women demonstrated severe symptoms of depression.

When the patients were questioned about their everyday consumption of green tea, 448 seniors said they drank 4 or more cups of the tea a day, while 284 said they drank 2-3 cups daily. The rest of the group drank one or fewer cups of green tea daily.

Investigators found that melancholy feelings were lower by 44% in those participants who drank more than four cups of green tea daily when compared to those who drank one or fewer cups of green tea. The researchers found that other contributory factors for depression such as level of physical activity, diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, BMI, disease history, sex, age, and socioeconomic status didn’t take away the amazing effects of the beverage on depression symptoms.

Alpha Waves

Researchers also noted that other varieties of tea, such as black tea, or oolong, didn’t give the same antidepressant results. Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine which fosters feelings of calm relaxation. Those who drink the tea find it soothing because theanine prods the brain to produce alpha-waves, which are associated with feelings of relaxation. Theanine also adjusts the level of the brain’s neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine which can wield a strong influence on mood swings.

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