Green Tea and Longevity: Lessons from Okinawa, Japan Blue Zone

Among palm trees and sandy beaches, there is an island that lies off the southern tip of Japan and is where one of the world’s longest-lived populations resides, including the world’s longest-lived women.  This island is Okinawa, Japan, one of the five acclaimed blue zones discover by Dan Buettner, the regions across the world where the most people live healthy, happy lives, with ages of 100+. 

Their rates of chronic disease are lower than the U.S., with  1/3 the rate of dementia.1  

In the pursuit of longevity, the people of Okinawa, Japan, have cultivated a lifestyle centered around social connections, regular movement, and the concept of ikigai, or finding a sense of purpose.  

But alongside these pillars of well-being lies another secret, their daily elixir for longevity.  While it's no magic potion, green tea has been a staple of Okinawan life for generations and is readily available in grocery stores nationwide.  

So, why is green tea such a staple in the Okinawan’s daily diet?  And how does it help them maintain their brain health for 100+ years?  Ahead, discover why you should consider drinking more green tea.  And later: which green tea is going to provide you with the most benefits, plus a brain health gift set to help you get started.  

Okinawa, Japan: Green Tea is “Liquid Gold” for Health 

Renowned as "liquid gold" for health, green tea accompanies nearly every meal Okinawan's enjoy, serving as a cornerstone of their culinary culture.  Amongst the hundreds of tea varieties, green tea stands out with its high antioxidant contents.  

Studies have shown that green tea may reduce the risk of various health conditions, such as:2 

  • Cancers, including breast, colorectal, esophageal, gastric, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.  
  • Cardiovascular disease, where research in Japan found that green tea extract could lead to reductions in body fat, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels, indicating a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 
  • Diabetes, as green tea has been associated with improvements in blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1c levels in diabetic patients.  
  • Oral health, such as periodontitis and dental cavities, through anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity against mouth bacteria.  
  • Reduced blood pressure, with benefits reported such as lower total cholesterol and LDL levels associated with green tea catechins consumption. 
  • Protective against brain decline, with nutrients in green tea working to reduce oxidative stress which can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.3 

Brain Health Nutrients in Green Tea 

Green tea offers many health benefits, with a focus on improving and safeguarding brain health, thanks to its rich nutrient compounds.  This tea is particularly high in flavonoids, potent antioxidants that protect the brain from oxidative stress.  Alongside flavonoids, green tea contains other nutritional components that contribute to reducing the risk of dementia by up to 29%.4

These brain health nutrients include: 

  • Catechins is flavonoid, making up 40% of green tea.  There are 4 types of catechins in green tea, but EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is the most abundant, making up 59% of the total catechins content in green tea.2  These nutrients can reduce brain inflammation, and also improve both short-term and long-term memory by promoting the growth of new neurons and strengthening their connections.5 
  • L-theanine, an amino acid abundant in green tea, aids in repairing damaged nerves within the brain, promoting neural regeneration.  It also enhances working memory, helping us retain and process information more effectively.  L-theanine promotes alpha wave production in the brain and boosts levels of GABA, which both play a role in promoting calmness.  With lowered stress responses, your body can spend more time in restful sleep, which can in turn protect your brains health.6 
  • Polyphenols, known for their antioxidant levels, play a crucial role in supporting brain cells by boosting BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) levels, helping brain cells grow, develop, and form new connections.  These nutrients are also beneficial for gut health, protecting the gut lining health which can reduce oxidative stress that can end up in the brain.7  

Choose the Right Green Tea for Your Needs 

While green tea enjoys worldwide popularity in various forms, in Japan, matcha has garnered significant attention.  Unlike traditional green tea, matcha is finely ground powder crafted from specially cultivated green tea leaves.  Instead of steeping and discarding leaves, matcha is consumed in its entirety, offering a concentrated dose of brain-healthy compounds like polyphenols, L-theanine, and catechins, alongside quercetin, known for its brain-protective properties and ability to aid in insulin resistance.8   It's important to note that matcha contains more caffeine than traditional green tea, making it a preferred morning beverage for many seeking an alternative to coffee. 

Incorporating green tea into your daily routine is a simple yet impactful way to support your brain's health.  It can be enjoyed warm, chilled, or even baked into delicious treats.

If this isn’t your cup of tea, there’s other ways to get the nutrients it provides, like nutritional supplements.  Our supplement, RELEVATE, is focused on brain health, crafted to include 14 brain-protective nutrients alongside L-theanine, catechins, and quercetin.  You can learn more about it and order here.  

For the month of May, we're thrilled to offer a Brain Health Gift Set featuring a tin of Organic Matcha Green Tea by Mizuba Tea Co. Sourced from a 100-year-old farm in Japan, this matcha is a treasure trove of brain-protective nutrients, boasting a delicate flavor profile with notes of toasted vanilla and creamy butter.  Plus, the Bamboo Matcha Scooping Spoon by Mizuba Tea Co., adding a touch of elegance to your tea rituals with its precise measurement and graceful serving.   Paired with one bottle of RELEVATE, it can help you begin your journey to a lifetime of brain health.  Learn more and order here.  

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  1. Buettner, D.The Blue Zones: 9 lessons for living longer from the people who’ve lived the longest. (National Geographic Society, 2012). 
  2. Reygaert, W. C. (2017). An Update on the Health Benefits of Green Tea. Beverages 2017, Vol. 3, Page 6, 3(1), 6. 
  3. Kakutani, Saki et al. “Green Tea Intake and Risks for Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review.” Nutrients vol. 11,5 1165. 24 May. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11051165 
  4. Jiang, Ning et al. “Tea intake or consumption and the risk of dementia: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.” PeerJ vol. 11 e15688. 18 Jul. 2023, doi:10.7717/peerj.15688 
  5. Sebastiani, G., et al. (2021). Therapeutic effects of catechins in less common neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. Nutrients, 13(7), 2232. 
  6. Li, Ming-Yue et al. “L-Theanine: A Unique Functional Amino Acid in Tea (Camellia sinensis L.) With Multiple Health Benefits and Food Applications.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 9 853846. 4 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.853846 
  7. Xu, L., Wang, R., Liu, Y., Zhan, S., Wu, Z., & Zhang, X. (2023). Effect of tea polyphenols on the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases through gut microbiota. Journal of Functional Foods, 107, 105669. 
  8. Kochman, Joanna et al. “Health Benefits and Chemical Composition of Matcha Green Tea: A Review.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 26,1 85. 27 Dec. 2020, doi:10.3390/molecules26010085 
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