Drinking five cups of tea a day improves focus and reaction times in over-85s, study shows

  • Older people who drink more than 5 cups of tea a day have better brain function
  • Newcastle University study shows they have better focus and attention span 
  • They also demonstrated better ‘psychomotor’ skills including reaction speeds

If you’re enjoying a cup of tea with your mince pie this festive season, you may be refreshing more than just your palate.

A new study by researchers at Newcastle University shows a good brew improves brain function in people aged over 85.  

In the study, tea drinkers who enjoyed more than five cups a day were shown to have more focus and a sustained attention span.

They also demonstrated better psychomotor skills – those linking brain and movement.

In tests, they showed better accuracy and speed of reaction which could help in daily activities such as completing a jigsaw, sewing or driving a car. 

In a study of those aged over 85, tea drinkers who enjoyed more than five cups a day were shown to have more focus and a sustained attention span


The UK is ranked 3rd in the world for tea consumption

  • Tea, the hot water infusion from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis, is the most consumed beverage in the world after water.
  • Black tea is the most commonly consumed tea and accounts for 76–78 per cent of world tea consumption.
  • The UK is ranked 3rd in the world for tea consumption per capita after Turkey and Ireland.

Previous research has shown that tea has health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and may even aid weight loss.

But researcher Dr Edward Okello at Newcastle University’s Human Nutrition Research Centre could not be sure if it was the drink or the routine of making it – that made the difference to older people’s brain function.

‘The skills we see maintained in this group of the very old may not only be due to the compounds present in tea, but it may also be the rituals of making a pot of tea or sharing a chat over a cup of tea which are just as important,’ he said.

Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of those over 85 living in their own homes or in assisted accommodation and found that those who drank more than five cups of tea a day – with or without milk – performed better at certain cognitive tests.

They used data from the flagship Newcastle 85+ study involving more than 1,000 people aged over 85 from Newcastle and North Tyneside.

Started in 2006, studies are still continuing to this day with around 200 participants as they become centenarians.

Research nurses gather information by visiting participants in their own homes to complete a health assessment made up of questionnaires, measurements, function tests and a fasting blood test.

Examining the consumption of black tea, Camellia sinensis, the researchers were looking for evidence that it protected against cognitive decline.

They found that higher tea consumption was associated with significantly better attention skills and psychomotor speed on complex tasks.

But they found no association between tea consumption and overall measures of memory or performance on simple speed tasks.

The researchers suggest the findings mean that black tea should be considered for the very old in any diet which aims to improve attention and psychomotor speed.

Dr Okello said: ‘We now know that enjoying a cup of tea quenches your thirst and has benefits for over 85s’ attention span.’

Britain’s tea drinkers waste enough water to fill 28 Olympic swimming pools every day 

 Tea-drinking Brits waste enough water to fill 28 Olympic swimming pools a day by boiling double amount of water they really need, says energy supplier Utilita.  

The 49.7 million British tea drinkers, who drink an average of four cups of tea a day, are actually boiling enough water for around 400 million drinks a day, rather than the 199.1 million they actually consume, it estimates. 

That equates to 69,696,447 litres wasted in total, assuming an average mug uses 350ml of water, the company says. 

The more water that’s in a kettle, the more energy a kettle uses to bring it to the boil, and Utilita is therefore advising people to think more carefully about how much they actually need. 

Utilita also revealed that overfilling the kettle, which can be a result of carelessness or uncertainty, is the top way Brits waste energy.  

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