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Scientists discover link between tea and memo -

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Scientists discover link between tea and memory retention

AM - Saturday, 30 October , 2004 08:28:00

Reporter: Philip Williams

HAMISH ROBERTSON: A nice cup of tea and a lie down have long been seen as a universal cure-all for
life's minor ills, but now research in Britain is showing a promising link between consumption of
black or green tea and a good memory.

A team at Newcastle University has discovered compounds in tea, which appear to inhibit key enzymes
in the brain associated with the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. It's early days, though, and a great
deal more research remains to be done. But if early results bear fruit, drinking tea may once again
become rather fashionable.

Our Europe Correspondent, Philip Williams, spoke to the lead researcher on the project, Dr Ed
Okello.

(Sound of 'Tea for Two': "Picture me upon your knee, tea for two and two for tea, can't you see I
have the weed for thee...")

ED OKELLO: In normal ageing, well, we tend to sort of have a decline in our memory, and the level
of the chemical that are responsible for memory drops dramatically in normal ageing, and also in
Alzheimer's Disease.

Now, if you can boost the level of this chemical by using either tea or other drugs, then you
improve communication in your brain, and that improved communication usually results in improved
memory.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Would you advise, on the evidence that you have so far, that people should switch
to tea if they're not using it already?

ED OKELLO: Well, as I say, it is a very serious problem worldwide, I think worldwide we have about
ten million sufferers from Alzheimer's Disease.

As to whether they should switch from coffee to tea, it would be difficult for me to advise people
how to lead their lifestyles, but what we do in science is to give you the data and the facts as we
see them, and then the choice is yours, and hopefully we'll come up with a definitive medicinal tea
which we think would be of benefit to dementia.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Are you a tea drinker?

ED OKELLO: I am a tea drinker, yes, I used to drink mostly black tea, but over the last two years,
when I was doing this research, I started drinking more and more green tea, because I think I'm
taking my own medicine now.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: And does it work? How is your memory?

ED OKELLO: My wife thinks it's not too bad... I have my moments, but hopefully I might not have
improved it greatly, but what I'll do is I'll preserve what I have.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: I guess, theoretically, that the British are huge tea drinkers -renowned for their
tea drinking.

ED OKELLO: They are, they are, and we have one of our MPs here called Tony Benn... he drinks, I
think, 18 pounds a day, and he's very, very sharp. His memory is excellent. I think it must be the
tea he drinks.

But of course, another thing we've got to be investigating is with the British they add milk to
their tea, so I don't know what effects milk has on the chemicals that are responsible for this
action.

In our chemical trial, we're going to test black tea with or without milk, and then green tea and
coffee and maybe no tea at all to see what effects they have on memory.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Of course, the old maxim is - if you've got a problem, you have a cup of tea and a
nice lie-down. It might be right.

ED OKELLO: It might be right, yes, it might be right.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Now, I had another question, but I've forgotten it, so it's time for a cuppa.

(Ed Okello laughs.)

(Sound of tea for two: "Can't you see how happy we would be.")

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Phillip Williams there, speaking to researcher Dr Ed Okello, of Newcastle
University in England.

(c) 2006 ABC