Study finds ceremonial-grade Japanese matcha enhances cognition and reaction times

Study finds ceremonial-grade Japanese matcha enhances cognition and reaction times

Well established for its earthy, umami taste, now new science supports the use Japanese matcha in functional foods, beverages and powders.

Matcha has clearly transitioned from unique and trendy to an established flavor showing up in multiple food and beverage categories. There is new evidence that Japanese ceremonial-grade matcha will soon be a sought-after functional ingredient. A published human study has found that it helps ease mild stress-related cognitive decline and improves reaction time among a very important consumer demographic: young adults. 

Matcha is highly qualified to be used as a functional ingredient 

“Matcha powder is a wholesome nutritious ingredient. When treated with care, matcha is a rich source of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, fibers, chlorophyll and L-theanine,” says nutrition scientist Derek Timm, PhD, RDN, who serves as Taiyo International’s functional ingredient technology expert.

Earlier this year, green tea industry powerhouse ITO EN, the well-known global supplier of authentic, organic ceremonial green tea and matcha powder, announced its partnership with Taiyo International to supply sustainable high-quality matcha to the food, beverage and supplement industries in North America. 

A two-gram dose of ceremonial-grade matcha
may offer big benefits and appeal to young adults 

Previous studies have found that daily matcha intake improves attention and executive function in adults middle-aged or older. For this placebo-controlled study, researchers in Japan assessed its value for younger adults. The study results were published in Science Direct

Researchers recruited 42 participants ages 25 to 34 years, who consumed 2 grams of ITO EN’s ceremonial-grade matcha daily for two weeks. After completing tests designed to induce mild, acute psychological stress, participants’ memory, attention, reaction times and other criteria were evaluated. 

Results indicated that participants who consumed ceremonial-grade matcha daily had higher attentional function than the placebo group, leading researchers to conclude that the interaction between caffeine and theanine naturally present in the matcha, produces a positive effect on cognitive function in young adults during or after stress conditions. “They also experienced faster reaction times and were better able to identify positive emotions, which may indicate a happier perspective,” comments Timm.  

Industry implications of this study 

With its rich green color and distinctive taste, ceremonial-grade, premium matcha adds to the sensory experience of most any food, beverage or powder. “Now we have even more evidence that it’s an indulgent flavor with cognitive benefits,” says Timm. 

He observes that the gaming category is ideal for matcha entries. “There are a number of new ingredients attaching themselves to gaming performance. Matcha and theanine are some of the originals. In addition to L-theanine, matcha also delivers the benefits of naturally occurring caffeine, which is about as much as a standard soda or a traditional cup of coffee. So, there is no need to add artificial caffeine.” 

Timm points out that matcha marketers can leverage the significant amount of L-theanine research. “The ceremonial-grade matcha used in this study contains about 50 grams of theanine per two-gram dose. In studies using Taiyo’s Suntheanine L-theanine, this is the lowest dose of L-theanine shown to increase calming alpha brain waves.  

“Formulators can easily supplement the L-theanine in ceremonial-grade matcha by adding 50 to 150 mg of Suntheanine to take further advantage of its scientifically proven mood, sleep and focus benefits. They might also consider adding prebiotic Sunfiber since Taiyo also has studies showing that the gut health benefits of Sunfiber are closely associated with better moods,” adds Timm. 

He says that ITO EN’s ceremonial-grade matcha, available from Taiyo and partner NutriScience Innovations, is especially ideal for matcha-flavored nutritive protein powders and RTDs, smoothies, bars and teas. “Taiyo anticipates that there will be increased interest in creating new formulas as well as line extensions to take advantage of matcha’s rising popularity.”  

All Taiyo green tea and matcha powder ingredients, including those sourced from ITO EN, are produced using time-honored processes, and are in compliance with strict solvent and pesticide regulations. Stringent quality control standards are in place from farm to market. Both grades of matcha ingredients are certified organic, Kosher, NGPV, FSSC 22000 certified and Informed Ingredient certified.