As a prelude, here’s a warning to all you lovers of milky tea out there: this article is not going to please you.
There is certainly nothing dangerous about adding a little dairy in your cup of chamomile or peppermint tea. It’s just that the healthful effects of that beverage dissipate once you do so. If you’re interested in the tremendous benefits that tea has on your body, then you’ll be interested in a new study that was conducted in Berlin, Germany.
The German researchers decided to test milk and see if it had any effect on tea’s cardiovascular benefits, proven in many previous studies. Tea is good for the heart and it protects this vital organ from disease. But the researchers were interested in a telling statistic: In Asia, there is less cardiac disease, yet in England there is the typical amount. Could it be that the English tradition of adding milk to tea was playing a role?
In a word, yes, it was. The study found that pouring milk into your favorite tea largely negates the health benefits of the drink. This is caused by proteins within milk called “caseins” that end up interacting with tea on a molecular level. The result is that they lower the concentration of “catechins,” which are flavonoids that help protect you from heart disease.
They looked at 16 women who consumed a half-liter of fresh black tea, black tea with 10% skimmed milk, or straight-up boiled water. Three separate times this happened, and the researchers used ultrasound to measure cellular function in an artery in the forearm — both before drinking and two hours later. Black tea significantly helped the arteries relax and expand, which in turn helps keep them healthy and the flow of blood normal.
But when milk entered the equation, the artery-improving effect was gone. Using rats in further experiments, this was proven again: tea relaxed blood vessels while milky tea did not. Published in the European Heart Journal, the study added that aside from milk blocking the blood vessel effect, it also wipes out the antioxidant effects of tea and potentially the cancer-protective effects as well.
That last note is of particular interest to people who drink green tea for its reputed cancer-preventing nature. Experts are agreeing with the finding, and the last note is simple enough: if you drink tea for its health benefits, then drink it without milk or cream.