If you've been to work--well, ever--or tried generally to keep up with everyday responsibilities lately, you know two things. First, the number of things you now need to remember to get through the day (let alone be wildly successful) is apparently higher than the number of snowflakes in Frosty. Secondly, a host of factors--for instance, lack of time, cost, poor cooking knowledge--have made it pretty hard to maintain a healthy diet. Luckily for you, there's a compound in green tea that might combat the high-fructose-corn-syrup diet so many of us are addicted to, helping to keep your memory firing hot.
The compound that works the magic
As Christopher Bergland of Pyschology Today writes, green tea contains Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG. In a new study led by Xuebo Liu, researchers from the College of Food Science and Engineering, Northwest A&F University in China split mice into three groups. The first group served as the control, the second group got a diet similar to that of Western countries, and the third group got a Western diet plus EGCG. All three groups then went through tests such as a water maze memory test.
At the end of the study, Liu and his team discovered that, in addition to acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, EGCG was neuroprotective. It appeared to reduce the memory impairment and neuronal damage ("brain drain") associated with high fat, high-fructose diets.
What's more, EGCG also decreased insulin resistance. This is a condition linked to the development of diabetes in which your cells don't use the hormone insulin effectively and, as a result, can't access glucose (sugar) for energy the way they need to. Glucose thus builds up in your blood, potentially increasing your risk of stroke, heart attack and other health problems. Doctors around the world recognize that obesity, which connects both to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, increases the odds of becoming insulin resistant.
Some eye-opening reasons to pay attention
Nobody likes to think that they'll fall prey to memory loss or insulin-resistance-based health concerns. But let's look at the stats:
- Dementia affects 47 million people around the world, with 9.9 million cases diagnosed every year.
- 40 percent of people with dementia live in high-income countries.
- Experts expect the number of people with dementia to reach close to 75 million by 2030. The rate will triple to 132 million by 2050.
- In 9 percent of dementia cases, symptoms are "early onset". Obesity, unbalanced diets, diabetes and physical inactivity are all risk factors for early onset dementia.
- At least 1 in 4 Americans eat some type of fast food every day.
- Americans spend 10 percent of their disposable income on fast food annually.
- Americans consume 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food.
- Less than 3 percent of Americans meet the basic qualifications for a "healthy lifestyle".
- Experts estimate that poor diet on the job is costing countries around the world up to 20 percent in lost productivity.
- Countries that are adopting diets similar to those found in Western nations are seeing an uptick in those who are ill and overweight.
In other words, the risk for memory issues related to poor diet is high and only getting worse.
Bergland correctly asserts that more research about EGCG in people is necessary, and that it's not a carte blanche to eat whatever you want even if it does help keep your brain healthier. But given the above statistics, if there's ever a time to buy yourself a little bit of insurance, it's now. If you do choose to take in more green tea, you don't necessarily have to do it by the cup, either. You can put green tea in ice cream, in the water for your oatmeal or rice, salad dressing, muffins, sauces and even homemade energy bars. The nutritional and protective benefit might vary based on how you prepare it, but you'll at least get something. Experiment and find whatever excites your palate!