Tea has previously been demonstrated to better help sustain alertness throughout the day in open-label studies. We investigated whether tea improves attention and self-reported alertness in two double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, crossover studies. Participants received black tea (made from commercially available tea bags) in one condition and placebo tea (hot water with food colours and flavours) similar in taste and appearance to real tea in the other condition. Attention was measured objectively with attention tests (the switch task and the intersensory-attention test) and subjectively with a self-report questionnaire (Bond-Lader visual analogue scales). In both studies, black tea significantly enhanced accuracy on the switch task (study 1 p<.002, study 2 p=.007) and self-reported alertness on the Bond-Lader questionnaire (study 1 p<.001, study 2 p=.021). The first study also demonstrated better auditory (p<.001) and visual (p=.030) intersensory attention after black tea compared to placebo. Simulation of theanine and caffeine plasma time-concentration curves indicated higher levels in the first study compared to the second, which supports the finding that tea effects on attention were strongest in the first study. Being the second most widely consumed beverage in the world after water, tea is a relevant contributor to our daily cognitive functioning.
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