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Researchers uncover how green tea compound boosts brain function

By Nathan Gray , 06-Sep-2012

Researchers uncover how green tea compound boosts brain function

The green tea compound epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG) provides benefits to memory and special learning by boosting the production of important neural cells, say researchers from China.

The research – published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research – investigated how the green tea compound influences the growth and development of important cells in the brain after previous research suggested that green tea, and the EGCG compound in particular, could boost memory and brain functions and could even be used in  the prevention and treatment of various neurodegenerative diseases.
Led by Professor Yun Bai from the Third Military Medical University, China, the research team found that mice fed the green tea compound EGCG had improved learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.
Bai and his team note that whilst it has been ‘long believed’ that green tea is good for the memory, only now is there emerging evidence that its chemical properties may impact cellular mechanisms in the brain."
"We proposed that EGCG can improve cognitive function by impacting the generation of neuron cells, a process known as neurogenesis," said Bai – who revealed that his results found that the compound promotes the growth of neuronal cells both in lab tests and in mice – “generally indicating that EGCG enhances adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus.”

Brainy beverage

Bai's team focused on the epigallocatechin-3 gallate as much research has already shown that the compound is a key component of green tea and has several suggested health benefits including increased brain functioning and memory.

"We focused our research on the hippocampus, the part of the brain which processes information from short-term to long-term memory," said Bai – who revealed that the team found EGCG to boost the production of neural progenitor cells, which like stem cells can adapt, or differentiate, into various types of cells.

The researchers then used laboratory mice to discover if this increased cell production gave an advantage to memory or spatial learning.

"We ran tests on two groups of mice, one which had imbibed EGCG and a control group," said Bai. "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."

They found that mice supplemented with EGCG required less time to find the hidden platform – suggesting that the compound enhances learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.

"We have shown that the organic chemical EGCG acts directly to increase the production of neural progenitor cells, both in glass tests and in mice," concluded Bai.

"This helps us to understand the potential for EGCG, and green tea which contains it, to help combat degenerative diseases and memory loss."

Source: Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
Volume 56, Issue 8,  pages 1292–1303, doi:  10.1002/mnfr.201200035
“Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) promotes neural progenitor cell proliferation and sonic hedgehog pathway activation during adult hippocampal neurogenesis”
Authors: Yanyan Wang, Maoquan Li, Xueqing Xu, Min Song, Huansheng Tao, Yun Bai

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