No More Milk In Your Tea? Here's why...


With all of the press coverage about the wonderful health benefits of tea in all its myriad forms, including the many discussions regarding the specific brain health & anti-aging benefits that we've covered here at BrainReady, more and more people around the world are adding some form of tea into their daily diet. 

From black teas to green teas to Matcha green tea powder Ooolong to white teas and the many in between, there's been something of a worldwide tea Renaissance in recent years, with some people looking for a caffeinated alternative to coffee while others continue to expand their existing tea tastes to new cultural frontiers.

For many of us, a prime motivator for adding more tea into the daily diet is health – and rightly so, given the overwhelming body of research studies illustrating the wide variety of health benefits that many teas provide. And as with coffee, many (perhaps even most, in the West) choose to augment the flavor and texture of tea by adding that magic ingredient that makes almost anything taste good: milk or cream.

Sorry, but that's where the problem comes in, according to some fascinating recent research by scientists in Germany (and elsewhere).

Did you know that simply adding a bit of milk or dairy to your tea can completely block the health benefits of the tea itself? Yes, it may sound hard to believe, and surely many will be disappointed at the news, but this research shows that dairy negates the very antioxidant benefits that are the reason many people choose to drink tea in the first place.

This is big news for the millions of people out there who add milk to their tea each day, thinking that they're getting all of those wonderful tea antioxidant benefits in their daily ritual. 


What's the problem with milk and tea? The culprits in milk are a group of proteins called caseins that interact with tea, decreasing the concentration of catechins -- the flavonoids in tea that are responsible for tea's protective effects against heart disease, the effects of aging, dementia, and other areas, according to the authors of a landmark study in Germany:

"There are a lot of studies that show that tea is protective against cardiac diseases," said lead researcher Dr. Verena Stangl, professor of cardiology at the Charite Hospital, Universitatsmedizin-Berlin, in Germany. "If you look at the studies, you see that in Asia there are less cardiac diseases, but in England that's not the case. So the question is, is the addition of milk a reason for this difference between Asia and England, where tea is often taken with milk?" she said.

In the study, 16 healthy post-menopausal women drank either half a liter of freshly brewed black tea, black tea with 10 percent skim milk, or boiled water --on three different occasions and under similar conditions. The researchers then measured the function of the cells lining the brachial artery in the forearm, using high resolution ultrasound before and two hours after tea consumption.

Stangl's team found that black tea significantly improved the ability of the arteries to relax and expand. "But when we added milk, we found the biological effect of tea was completely abolished," she said.

Additional experiments on rat aortas and rat endothelial cells -- which line blood vessels -- found that tea relaxed the vessels. 

But adding milk blunted the effect.

"If you want to drink tea for its health effects, don't drink it with milk," Stangl said.

Stangl also noted that not only does milk block tea's benefits for blood vessels, it also destroys the antioxidant effects of tea and perhaps its cancer-protective effects as well. Her team is also comparing the effects of green and black tea on the function of blood vessels. "It's a question whether green tea, with its higher catechin content, is better than black tea in regard to endothelial function," she said.


Other experts agree that you should hold the milk when drinking tea: "This is actually something we tell patients to do -- not to have milk in tea," said Dr. Robert Vogel, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland Medical School. Tea is one of the greatest sources of antioxidants, Vogel said. "In countries where they drink a lot of tea, heart disease is decreased, except for the British Isles. It is typical in Great Britain to add milk."

Vogel's advice is simple: "Add lemon not milk. You should not add milk or cream to tea -- it's a very good drink, but not with milk," he said.

Wow. This may come at quite an unpleasant shock to not only the UK, but to the other millions worldwide who enjoy taking their tea with milk or cream, at least for those who care about the wonderful health benefits that their daily tea could provide. Of course, if you drink tea with milk only for flavor and don't care about the health benefits of tea (as some surely will choose), tea with milk is still surely a healthier beverage alternative than the likes of soft drinks or milk-fat-and-sugar-laden coffee drinks.

So what about coffee, you ask? 

Since the news about tea and milk hit, coffee drinkers have feared that the same no-dairy news is true for coffee as well. Does this mean no more latte drinks, no more dash of cream in my daily coffee? 

The answer is no, and yes: in separate studies (done based on the tea/milk findings), researchers found that the casein/antioxidant blockage problem did not occur. The chemical structures of tea and coffee are of course different, despite the fact that both are powerhouses of antioxidants.


Hurray! So does that give license for all tea-with-milk drinkers out there to switch to coffee-with-milk instead? Time to hit Starbucks and order a Venti octuple-frappa-carmel-smoothiatto-topia-with-whip-and-sprinkles?

Hardly. Although it's a large enough subject to fill multiple articles, adding milk to your beverages also means adding carbs, simple sugars, and in many cases, unwanted elements such as growth hormones and other artifacts of the mass-production dairy machine that enables the ubiquity that is dairy. Dairy can also cause allergic, gastrointestinal, blood sugar spiking and other effects in many people, as is well-known, so despite some valid health benefits of certain forms of dairy (particularly grass-fed, organic varieties in moderation), it's far from being the "health super-food" that one should make sure to get multiple servings of each day, as the many advertisements and multi-billion dollar campaigns would have us sheepishly believe. 

But that's for another topic. 

Our take: we recommend taking your tea in what we at BrainReady believe (based on available research, evidence and common sense) to be the best way: straight, pure, and unspoiled by the likes of dairy, sugars, sweeteners, and the other common things that many people whose tastes have been corrupted by the ever-increasing sweetening/salting/refining/homogenization of mass-produced foods in recent years. 

Once you get off the "everything must be sweet, salty, creamy!" mass-market food machine, it's truly sublime how the complex, delicate tastes of foods and drinks in their pure form astound your senses. And this is more true for tea and coffee than almost any other.

Here's to taking it straight!

- The BrainReady team

(What do you think of the news about milk and tea? Are you going to change your habits based on this research? Share your thoughts below by clicking the 'Comments' link and let's discuss!)

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