Monday, November 14, 2011

You Won't lose the health benefits of tea by adding milk

Although this area of research still remains an area of controversy, we do not believe that there is reliable evidence to show that key health benefits will be lost if milk is added to tea. While there are not many studies in this area, here is what we know. 

Teas like green tea are typically valued for their unique phytonutrients, including catechins and other polyphenols that function as antioxidants and that can provide special support for our cardiovascular system. These phytonutrients can support our cardiovascular system in many different ways, and it is important to preserve them in the tea that we drink. In one German study, the addition of milk to green tea was found to interfere with one of these support mechanisms (although not with others). A study by the United Kingdom Tea Council showed no effect on the availability of these phytonutrients when milk was added to black tea, and a third study in India showed some mixed effects in this regard. Taken as a group, we do not believe these studies demonstrate consistent loss of key health benefits when milk is added to tea. For individuals who enjoy their tea both with and without milk and are not lacking in any of the nutrients that milk provides, it might make sense to leave out the milk given the research controversy in this area. For individuals who only enjoy their tea with milk, or who may be lacking in the nutrients that milk provides, we do not believe it makes sense to eliminate the milk based on current research. 

We haven't seen research on milk substitutes (including soy milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, or rice milk) and their impact on tea's phytonutrients. Nor have we seen research on the consumption of other dairy products (like hard cheeses or cottage cheese) alongside of tea. Until more research is available in this area, we recommend an approach very similar to the one described above for cow's milk. As always, we encourage you to purchase certified organic teas and milks, and in the case of cow's milk, to choose lower fat (2% or less) products. 

  • Lorenz M, Jochmann N, von Krosigk A, et al. Addition of milk prevents vascular protective effects of tea. Eur Heart J. 2007 Jan;28(2):219-23. Epub 2007 Jan 9. 2007.
  • Sharmaa V, Kumara HV, Mohan LJ. Influence of milk and sugar on antioxidant potential of black tea. Food Research International 2008;41(2):124-129. 2008.
  • United Kingdom Tea Council. Effects of Infusion Time and Addition of Milk on Content and Absorption of Polyphenols from Black Tea. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 May 10; [Epub ahead of print] 2007.

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