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BRAIN TEASER; Cuppa makes you smarter research reveals.

Byline: By NAOMI McELROY

STICK the kettle on - it looks like your morning cuppa could be making you SMARTER.

A new scientific survey claim drinking tea improves concentration, makes you more alert, and helps keep your mind focused on the job.

Irish neuroscientist John Foxe claims a cup of cha is the best thing going for your brain.

He said: "The effects we've found are subtle, but they're real.

"My lab here in New York, I also have a lab in Dublin, studies attention, we would be known as the world experts on attention studies.

"So when Unilever's Beverage Global Technology Centre asked us to work on tea we said ok - but frankly I was pretty sceptical.

"I didn't think much would come out of it as humans have been drinking tea for the past 5,000 years."

But instead the results of the tests surprised the science community. Professor Foxe discovered that an amino acid in tea called theanine actually enters the brain when you drink a cuppa.

And once it's in, the powerful chemical helps you concentrate.

He said: "Not many things can actually enter the brain, it's difficult to get across the blood-brain barrier.

"One that everyone knows that can enter the brain is caffeine, but theanine can as well."

And once it's in, it starts working straight away. Professor Foxe said: "We found that within 20 minutes of drinking a cup of tea there was an effect on the brain's alpha waves."

And that's not all. The magic chemical's brainy effect lasts for around four hours.

Professor Foxe explained: "We attached 168 electrodes to the heads of our volunteers and recorded their brains while they were doing different attention tasks.

"For example, they could have a bunch of visual tasks to do on a computer, then we would make them quickly switch over to an audio task on a pair of headphones.

"We can make it so the tasks are as hard as they can be without being impossible.

"When you're recording the brain your can see it's natural rhythm, the alpha waves.

"Alpha waves are associated with relaxation, with being very calm, very zoned out.

"If you're involved in a difficult task you wouldn't want to see too many alpha waves.

"What we've discovered is if you give the subjects theanine, which is present in tea, their alpha waves decrease and they get better at the task."

So a cup of tea can help you knuckle down and get the job done.

Professor Foxe said: "When we do these experiments we give them a lot of it, more than you'd get in just one cup of tea.

"But it shows that even a lesser amount can have an effect.

"The next experiments use a smaller does, the same as three or four cups of tea, which a lot of people would drink in a day.

"When you go off to drink tea I doubt you think, 'Oh, this has wonderful antioxidant effects, I won't get cancer when I'm 80'. You say it calms you down, it focuses you, gives you a boost, these are brain effects and that's what we're studying."

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Tea-time.. it's good for you; Study.. John Foxe
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 7, 2007
Words:536
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