We have written before about the amazing health benefits of green tea. Now it has been discovered that it may help protect us against cancer–and AIDS! Green tea may almost be a medicine, but coffee may be just as good (for older women anyway).

A new study shows that caffeine may help older women protect their thinking skills. The study found that women age 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee (or the equivalent in tea) per day had less decline over time on tests of memory than women who drank one cup or less of coffee or tea per day. The results held up even after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect memory abilities, such as age, education, disability, depression, high blood pressure, medications, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illnesses.

Researcher Karen Ritchie says, "Caffeine is a psychostimulant which appears to reduce cognitive decline in women. While we have some ideas as to how this works biologically, we need to have a better understanding of how caffeine affects the brain before we can start promoting caffeine intake as a way to reduce cognitive decline. But the results are interesting?caffeine use is already widespread and it has fewer side effects than other treatments for cognitive decline, and it requires a relatively small amount for a beneficial effect."

Alas, coffee drinkers did not seem to have lower rates of dementia. "We really need a longer study to look at whether caffeine prevents dementia; it might be that caffeine could slow the dementia process rather than preventing it," says Ritchie. She also says that researchers aren?t sure why caffeine didn’t show the same result in men: "Women may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Their bodies may react differently to the stimulant, or they may metabolize caffeine differently."

A compound derived from green tea greatly diminished the power of proteins secreted by the HIV virus, suggesting a new approach to the prevention and treatment of HIV-associated dementia, also known as AIDS dementia complex.

HIV-associated dementia, a debilitating cognitive, emotional, and physical disorder, affects 22% of HIV-infected adults and more than half of HIV-infected children. Symptoms often begin with slight changes in behavior, intellectual ability, memory, and muscle coordination. Some patients experience depression-like symptoms such as loss of appetite and motivation. Tasks requiring complex thinking and high concentration become difficult, and motor skills gradually deteriorate over time.

Another new study suggests that enzymes in a green tea concentrate might help some people strengthen their metabolic defense against toxins capable of causing cancer. Researcher Sherry Chow says, "They actually convert known carcinogens to non-toxic chemicals, and studies have shown a correlation between deficient expression of these enzymes and increased risk of developing some cancers."

Green tea has long been of interest to researchers given studies that have shown populations in which it is often consumed, such as the Chinese and Japanese, generally have lower rates of cancer. But there is an interesting reason why the English and Irish, who are also big tea drinkers, do not seem to get the same benefits from it.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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