Do you, or would you, stock tea in your pharmacy? Strong evidence shows it can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes

A research team led by Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Perth, WA, has looked into the role that tea phytochemicals may play in the prevention of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia) and diabetes share underlying pathological processes, commonality in risk factors, and pathways for intervention.

Tea is rich in phytochemicals including flavonoids, tannins, caffeine, polyphenols, boheic acid, theophylline, theobromine, anthocyanins, gallic acid and epigallocatechin-3-gallate – which is considered to be the most potent active ingredient of them all.

Due to the high levels of antioxidants in tea leaves, studies suggest tea can be considered a neuro-protective agent.

Numerous in vitro, animal and human studies also support the notion that tea has anti-obesity and anti-hypolipidemic effects.

“Flavonoid phytochemicals, known as catechins, within tea offer potential benefits for reducing the risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, by targeting common risk factors including obesity, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke,” say the researchers.

Studies show that catechins may prevent the formation of amyloid-β plaques and enhance cognitive function, which could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

And findings from a number of studies indicate that catechins may also be beneficial for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

“Both population-based studies as well as human clinical trials have shown a link between tea consumption and a reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,” says lead author Dr Binosha Fernando, a fellow of the ECU Centre of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care.

tea bags

“One study found that drinking tea could result in a significant reduction in the symptoms of diabetes, including a 15-fold increase in insulin activity. Low insulin activity is a major risk factor for diabetes.”

Catechins are present in higher quantities in green tea than in black tea due to the differences in processing the tea leaves.

Certain white teas have similar quantities of catechins to green tea but less antioxidant capacity.

However in general, black, green and white tea all have a potential role to play.

“Overall, tea appears to offer a safe and acceptable therapeutic and/or complementary approach toward lowering the risk factors associated with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” conclude the researchers.

“However, to date, the manner, type and amount required in order to achieve the potential benefits remains to be determined by prospective clinical trials.”

So consider stocking tea in your pharmacy – it has proven clinical preventative properties beyond pure enjoyment.

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2017; online 17 July