(NaturalNews) You've heard it before, but it's true: Green tea, one of the most studied substances in recent history, really does help improve your memory.
That is the not-so-new conclusion of Chinese researchers who essentially have reaffirmed that the chemical properties of green tea tend to affect the generation of brain cells, which provides benefits for memory and spatial learning.
Prof. Yun Bai, of the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, and a research team focused on the organic chemical epigallocatechin-3 gallate, which is better known as EGCG, an antioxidant ingredient of green tea.
"Green tea is a popular beverage across the world," said Bai in a statement. "There has been plenty of scientific attention on its use in helping prevent cardiovascular diseases, but now there is emerging evidence that its chemical properties may impact cellular mechanisms in the brain."
Improvements in recognition and spatial memory
The results of the study, which were published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, found that EGCG elevated the production of neural progenitor cells, which - like stem cells - can adapt, or differentiate, into various other types of cells.
"We ran tests on two groups of mice, one which had imbibed EGCG and a control group," Bai said. "First the mice were trained for three days to find a visible platform in their maze. Then they were trained for seven days to find a hidden platform."
Researchers found that the EGCG-treated mice required far less time to find the hidden platform and overall EGCG enhanced learning and memory capabilities by improving object recognition and spatial memory.
Earlier studies have shown similar benefits of consuming green tea, many of which could be construed as improving mental function, especially as we age.
For example, a recent study in Japan, which was led by Yasutake Tomata of the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, found a general decrease in "functional disability" among older adults who drank five cups of green tea daily, compared to those who consumed one or fewer cups per day.
Tomata and his team monitored almost 14,000 senior citizens 65 and older for three years. In the end, 13 percent of adults who drank just a cup or fewer of green tea daily became functionally disabled, compared to just seven percent who drank five or more.
"Green tea consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of incident functional disability, even after adjustment for possible confounding factors," Tomata and his research team wrote.
A healthy diet may contribute as well, but green tea is a definite factor
Granted, researchers have noted that people who consume green tea on a regular basis tend to be healthier anyway, consuming more fish, vegetables and fruit. They also tend to be more educated, have lower rates of smoking, suffer fewer heart attacks and strokes, and have greater mental sharpness overall.
In addition, they tend to be more socially active and have more family and friends to rely on.
Still, with all that in mind, researchers have found that green tea itself is definitely tied to a lower risk of disability.
Besides helping to boost mental performance and ability, researchers have linked the consumption of green tea with anti-cancer activities.
"The science is certainly promising," David L. Katz, MD, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, says, though he notes more research is needed to flesh out all of green tea's actual benefits.
British scientists have also found that, when green tea is consumed, it tends to spur something in the digestive process that contributes to anti-cancer and anti-Alzheimer's qualities.
"What was really exciting about this study was that we found when green tea is digested by enzymes in the gut, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer's development than the undigested form of the tea," said Dr. Ed Okello, a lead researcher at Newcastle University.