Matcha Tea May Potentially Help With Depression

Matcha, a type of powdered green tea from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, is a popular drink that is traditionally consumed in East Asia. A new study suggests that matcha not only has health benefits but may also increase mental health functioning and overall mood.

In the United States, approximately 21 million adults suffer from major depressive symptoms. This accounts for around 8.4% of adults and is one of the biggest mental health complications in the nation. Depression stems from different reasons in everyone but usually results from a dopamine reduction in the brain.

Dopamine, often known as happiness hormones, is a critical part of our mood-making system. For people seeking a natural method of elevating dopamine levels, a new study suggests matcha may be an option.

A research team from Japan conducted a study on mice to see how matcha affects depression by triggering the dopaminergic system. The research, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nutrients on January 23, says mice that consumed matcha had alleviated anxiety by triggering the dopamine function via dopamine D1 receptor signaling. Giving stress-susceptible mice matcha tea seemed to diminish their levels of depression, reflected by their presentation in tail suspension tests (TST), often used to measure depression in mice.

To study why matcha helped with depressive symptoms in mice, the team conducted a deeper investigation. Immunohistochemical analysis of the mice disclosed that the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens in stress-susceptible mice were activated after consuming matcha. These two areas play a critical role in the dopaminergic circuit and regulate dopamine levels in the brain.

Their stimulation raised dopamine levels and improved mood, as shown by an increase in the number of cells expressing c-Fos, a critical marker of neural activity.

They also found that issuing a dopamine D1 receptor blocker to stress-susceptible mice canceled the effects of matcha tea suspension. This means that the tea powder is similar to the effects of an anti-depressant.

Yuki Kurauchi of Kumamoto University is positive about the long-term effects of their study. Given that stress-susceptible mice responded favorably to the effects of matcha tea suspension while stress-tolerant mice did not, it is important to take these variations of mental health into account when assessing antidepressants in people.

Kurauchi concludes: "Also, incorporating matcha into health promotion programs has potential to improve its widespread utility. Here’s to better mental health with safer food ingredients!"

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