- Japanese researchers gave the tea to stress-sensitive mice that were isolated
- The results suggested that the tea made them less depressed than before
- READ MORE: Matcha tea helps you live longer, says Harvard longevity expert
Trendy matcha tea now sold at Starbucks and Dunkin’ may help fight depression, a study suggests.
Researchers in Japan gave the tea to stress-sensitive mice that had been kept in social isolation for a week.
They found that those who drank the tea showed fewer signs of depression compared to rodents who received the water placebo.
Experts suggested this could be because the tea triggered the release of dopamine, the body’s feel-good hormone, which helped boost the rodent’s mood.
Dr. Yuki Kurauchi, a biochemist who led the study, said: ‘These results suggest that matcha tea powder has an antidepressant-like effect by activating the brain’s dopaminergic system, and this is influenced by the individual’s mental state.’
About 21 million American adults are depressed, estimates suggest, with about one in four children.
Matcha tea – made from powdered tea leaves – has been enjoyed for hundreds of years in Japan, where it has been a backbone of tea ceremonies.
It has already been associated with a host of health benefits, including cancer prevention, weight loss and better heart health. This week, a longevity expert at Harvard University even wrote that it helped him age ten years.
There was also evidence that it helped improve mental performance and reduce symptoms of depression.
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In the latest study, scientists tested the impact of drinking the tea on a group of 190 mice.
Each was kept at a constant temperature of 71.6F (22C) and a 12 hour cycle of light and dark for one week. They had unlimited access to food and water.
Some were then given matcha tea about 30 minutes before measuring depression in the rodents.
Scientists used the tail suspension test for this. It’s when mice are hung by their tails using tape and tracked for about six minutes.
In the test, happier mice are expected to make more effort to break free. But mice that are depressed are expected to spend more time immobile.
The results showed that mice that drank matcha tea were more active than their counterparts.
The researchers said this suggested matcha tea fights depression.
An examination of their brain showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens, suggesting a possible dopamine boost.
Dr. Kurauchi from Kumamoto University added: ‘Matcha tea only reduced immobility time in stress-prone mice that experienced more stress from social isolation.
‘[These mice also exhibited higher depression-like behavior, in comparison to the stress-tolerant mice.’
Mice that had been bred to be stress-susceptible showed a positive effect from drinking matcha tea. But those who had not been bred for this did not.
It was not clear how well the results of the study would transfer to humans.
The matcha tea used was manufactured by AIYA company which is based in Nishio, Aichi, Japan. Its tea is available in the US.
The research was partly funded by AIYA. It was published in the journal Nutrients.