Elderly tea lovers who drink more than five cups a day have been shown to experience significant cognitive benefits, according to a new study.
People 85 and over also showed better accuracy and speed of reaction which could help in a range of daily activities from driving to completing jigsaws.
“The skills we see maintained in this group of the very old may not only be due to the compounds present in tea but may also be due to the rituals of making a pot of tea or sharing a chat over a cup of tea,” said Dr Edward Okello, who led the Human Nutrition Research Centre project at Newcastle University.
The research used data from the Newcastle 85+ Study involving more than a thousand 85-year-olds from Newcastle and North Tyneside.
Started in 2006, studies are still continuing to this day, with about 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. They have been looking for evidence that drinking black tea protects against memory loss.
Results have shown that higher levels of tea-drinking can significantly improve attention span and the ability to perform complex tasks (psychomotor speed). There has been no association found between drinking tea and overall memory function, however. Neither has a correlation been established between drinking tea and the execution of 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.
"We now know that enjoying a cup of tea quenches your thirst and has benefits for over 85s attention span," Dr Okello said. "What better excuse do we need for enjoying a cuppa together?"