A neurological basis for humanity’s love affair with Camellia sinensis?
It appears to depend on whether you add lemon
Tea, black tea/green tea/white tea, is made from the tea plant. That’s different from herbal tea, which is defined as pouring hot water over any plant in the world other than the tea plant. There are 287,655 different types of plants on the planet; why is this one plant, the most popular beverage in the world? It’s not the caffeine—the coffee plant has more caffeine, but more people drink tea than coffee. It’s probably not the taste—most people would probably prefer peppermint, or some of the fruity berry teas as better tasting. I mean it’s a pretty enough plant, but why do we drink literally billions of cups a day—of this one?
Well, I think we just figured it out. It turns out there’s something in this plant that’s basically found in only two places in nature—here, and in a weird blueish mushroom called the bay boleet, which has these little holes instead of gills. Scientists figured this one might taste better with crumpets, and so they called the unique substance theanine. What does this stuff do that it has billions of people hooked on it? We weren’t quite sure, until last year.
When you hook up people to an EEG to measure their brain wave activity, you find that human beings essentially have four mental states—two while sleeping and two while awake. Delta waves, where your whole brain is basically electrically pulsing very slowly at about a wave a second, are only seen in deep sleep. Then there’s theta wave sleep, when you’re dreaming, at about 5 cycles per second.
The two waking states are alpha and beta. Alpha is relaxed, aware, attentive, like when we close our eyes and meditate; and beta is more the stimulated, hustle-and-bustle state where most of us live our lives.
Alpha is where we want to be, fully alert and focused, but calm. How do we get there? Well if you relax in a nice peaceful place, after about 90 minutes you can start to see some significant alpha activity, which is this yellow and red. Now practicing meditators, like Buddhist monks, can achieve this state earlier, and maintain it even with their eyes open.
So you can meditate every day for a few years, or just drink some tea. This is the amount of theanine that enters your brain after you drink about two cups of tea. Look closely, compare, and see if you detect a difference. That, is why people drink tea from the tea plant.
But are their side-effects to so dramatically altering our brain on a daily basis? Well if seen my previous years’ lectures, you know that the side effects of daily tea consumption include things like less breast cancer risk, and living a significantly longer life.
Here are the new side-effects we just learned about in the last 12 months: Drinking tea from the tea plant halves your risk of getting ovarian cancer. Halves your risk of getting endometrial cancer. Can lower our cholesterol, our blood sugars, and our weight. Protect our liver. And protect our brain. Drink green tea every day.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.
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M. B. de Santana, M. G. Mandarino, J. R. Cardoso, I. Dichi, J. B. Dichi, A. E. I. Camargo, B. A. Fabris, R. J. Rodrigues, E. C. S. Fatel, S. L. Nixdorf, A. N. C. Sim~ao, R. Cecchini, and D. S. Barbosa. Association between soy and green tea (camellia sinensis) diminishes hypercholesterolemia and increases total plasma antioxidant potential in dyslipidemic subjects. Nutrition, 24(6):562-568, 2008
K. C. Maki, M. S. Reeves, M. Farmer, K. Yasunaga, N. Matsuo, Y. Katsuragi, M. Komikado, I. Tokimitsu, D. Wilder, F. Jones, et al. Green tea catechin consumption enhances exercise-induced abdominal fat loss in overweight and obese adults. Journal of Nutrition, 139(2):264, 2009.
For some of the most recent videos on the health benefits of tea:
Herbal Tea Update: Rooibos & Nettle
Antimutagenic Activity of Green Versus White Tea
Herbal Tea Update: Hibiscus
Better Than Green Tea?
Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on tea. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!
Also, for more context be sure to check out my associated blog posts: Breast Cancer and Diet, Is Caffeinated Tea Really Dehydrating?, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, Soymilk: shake it up!, Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek, Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?, and Rooibos & Nettle Tea.
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