Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can you beat depression with a cup of tea?

Even though spring is right around the corner, some of us may still be experiencing the winter blues, while for others, fighting off depression remains an uphill battle. That’s why I was struck by a preliminary study which found that regular consumption of a popular tea may be able to cut your risk of depression nearly in half.

In this study, Japanese researchers at Tohoku University Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering examined the effects of green tea consumption on 1,058 healthy individuals over the age of 70. Among these subjects, 34 percent of the men and 39 percent of the women showed symptoms of depression. Depression was reported to be severe in about 20 percent and 24 percent of the men and women, respectively.
The researchers measured the green tea consumption of each study participant: 488 reported drinking four or more cups of green tea per day, with 283 drinking two to three cups daily, and 286 averaging one or fewer cups daily. Additional risk factors—including social and economic status, diet, gender, physical activity, smoking, medical history, and use of antidepressant medications—were also accounted for.

The study authors’ conclusion: Regardless of lifestyle and social factors, elderly men and women who drank four or more cups of green tea daily were 44 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who drank only one cup per day or less. There was no similar association found, however, with daily consumption of beverages such as coffee and black or oolong tea.

While further research is needed to confirm green tea’s potentially beneficial role in mood enhancement, this is nevertheless very promising news for anyone struggling with depression. Given green tea’s unique chemical composition, it wouldn’t surprise me if studies continue to reinforce these findings in the future. This study’s authors noted that L-theanine could be the component responsible for green tea’s potential antidepressant effects. L-theanine is a calming amino acid known to reduce mental and physical stress and enhance critical neurotransmitter activity.

There are quite a few more reasons why drinking green tea on a regular basis is a very good idea. Green tea is also abundant in a class of phytochemicals called polyphenols, and specifically, the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). These natural compounds minimize the damage caused by free radicals and aid in detoxifying the body and reducing inflammation, resulting in a wide range of clinical benefits. Extensive research shows that green tea can help to balance glucose and insulin levels, protect against atherosclerosis and heart disease, and boost cognitive function. Studies indicate that it also plays a critical role in the prevention of numerous forms of cancer—including lung, breast, and prostate cancer.

There’s no doubt that sipping a cup of green tea can provide a broad array of benefits to your health, whether you’re battling depression or not. If you don’t drink it already, there’s no better time to start. Also, take advantage of the upcoming sunshine by going outside and getting a dose of Vitamin D! This will also help to lift your spirits.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2009.

1 comment:

  1. I am wondering if decaffinated green tea provides the same health benefits? 4 cups of a caffinated drink is a lot and could disrupt sleep. I discuss healthy aging in my book on eldercare, Happiness Is Growing Old at Home. On my website, I post the latest information on a vast array of topics that will help seniors age at home.