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In a week that begins with celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s traditional to think of all things green, from the wearing of the green to green shamrocks and green leprechauns and green beer.

Another green to think about this week, one that has a significant benefit for the body and the brain, is green tea. In my practice, I’m often asked about simple things one can do that can improve body and brain health without a prescription. One of the easiest therapies you can implement in your dietary routine each day is to add green tea, a beverage full of antioxidants and polyphenols, which contribute to its anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects. You don’t even need to drink a lot of it; studies show that as little as 1-2 cups a day of green tea may have exceptional benefits on health.

Green tea, and all tea in general, is derived from the plant, Camellia sinensis. Green tea undergoes little processing, as compared to black tea, and retains most of its flavonoid and polyphenol content. Of these, the green tea constituent most associated with biological activity is EGCG, or epigallocatechin-3-gallate.

The health benefits of green tea – and they are numerous – uncovered in studies include reduced risk of death from stroke or pneumonia and a reduced risk of osteoporosis, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Given that many of these factors have an impact on function and contribute to age-related disability, researchers decided to look more closely at the overall impact of green tea on the risk of becoming functionally disabled. What they discovered was that the simple intake of a couple of cups of green tea a day was associated with reduced risk of disability in those they studied.

Results published in 2012 from the Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study in Japan showed a correlation with green tea intake and reduce risk of functional disability. In the study conducted among 13,968 Japanese men and women over the age of 65, researchers discovered that those subjects who drank 1-2 cups of green tea a day had a 10% reduced risk of becoming functionally disabled when compared to those who drank little to no green tea a day. For those who consumed 5 or more cups a day, the risk of disability dropped by up to 33%. Researchers adjusted for other possible factors that may have reduced risk, but none were more significant that the green tea consumption.

What do these results mean to you? For a simple strategy to support lasting physical and mental well-being, the addition of a couple of cups of green tea a day could reduce your risk of becoming disabled by up to 33%, depending on other lifestyle factors. In addition to its health benefits, it’s a great alternative to other higher calorie beverages since it has no calories when served unsweetened and only a small amount of caffeine. Drinking tea is a pleasant and relaxing habit that may add years to your life.

Dr. Lauren Russel is a naturopathic physician specializing in anti-aging medicine and therapies designed to support the brain and body. Known for her ability to handle complex cases, Dr. Russel has a particular focus on bioidentical hormone therapy for men and women, digestive health, food allergies, thyroid and adrenal function, macular degeneration, and aldosterone for hearing loss. She has been a medical writer and editor for many years.

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