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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Black, Green Tea May Slow Alzheimer's Disease

Finding May Lead to New Treatments, Says British Study
WebMD Health News

Oct. 27, 2004 -- Developing a taste for black or green tea may delay Alzheimer's disease, new research shows.

A study from England's University of Newcastle upon Tyne shows that green and black teas may inhibit certain brain enzymes linked to Alzheimer's disease. The study's findings may lead to new therapeutic developments for dementia and Alzheimer's disease, which is estimated to affect 10 million people worldwide.

Coffee, in contrast, did not show any significant effects in the study.

Researchers including Edward Okello of the university's biology school pitted green tea, black tea, and coffee. They found that tea stops the activity of chemicals in the brain associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease occur when brain nerve cells that process information and memory degenerate and die. Abnormalities such as plaque and tangles proteins form on nerve cells.

The first brain chemical, acetylcholinesterase (AchE), breaks down one of the brain's chemical messengers that helps transport and process information -- called acetylcholine. A drop in acetylcholine, in areas of the brain associated with memory and learning, has been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Medications used to treat Alzheimer's disease work by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. Aricept, Exelon, and Reminyl are examples of these medications.

The teas also stopped the activity of other chemicals known to be key in making plaques and tangles in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The second chemical is called butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE). However, green tea also inhibited a third and final brain chemical called beta-secretase, which is also involved in brain protein deposits seen with Alzheimer's disease.

Don't let that alphabet soup of chemical names throw you off. Green tea counteracted all three chemicals. Black tea was also powerful in curbing the first two chemicals, but only green tea inhibited beta-secretase. The researchers also found that green tea continued to have its inhibitive effect for a week, whereas black tea's enzyme-inhibiting properties lasted for only one day.

Black and green tea both come from the same plant, which goes by the Latin name of Camellia sinensis. Their antioxidant effects have been noted in various studies. The difference between the two drinks is that black tea has been fermented, resulting in a change in taste and appearance.

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