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Filed under: Nutrition

Question: I found something through one of your articles about tea. Specifically when milk is added to green tea or other varieties of tea, the catechins are then negated by the fat content in the milk and rendered useless, now I’ve done a little light reading on it but I keep finding mixed results, some sources say this is not true, some say it is, some say it depends on the fat content… I’m a little bit confused by it all, as with many things in nutrition it’s hard to find a great answer, especially only being a nutrition aware by hobby, perhaps you could enlighten me?

Keep up the great work mate!

P.S I don’t drink green tea with milk (though I have tried it on occasion) but I do drink Black, White, Rooibos and Oolong with milk ( I only know about Rooibos thanks to you!)

Answer: While milk and dairy products do interfere with the catechins in green tea, it is due to a protein, not to the fat content. That may have been the source of your confusion (one study was done on fat content and it did show a difference, but it is the only one I am aware of, the rest are on protein). Milk and its high protein products (cheese, yogurt) contain a significant amount of protein. Casein is the major type of protein found in milk, making up nearly 80% of the content, with the other 20% coming from whey.

It is this casein protein that actually causes the issues with simultaneous tea consumption.

Tea contains some incredibly heart healthy compounds called catechins, specifically one called EGCG, which have been shown to cause the arteries to relax, among many other benefits. Unfortunately research has shown that when you add milk to the tea, the casein binds to the catechins, preventing this incredibly beneficial effect from taking place.

I think more research is needed on the topic, since it has been shown that the probiotics in yogurt disrupt some of casein’s other potential heath issues, so does it also prevent casein from binding to polyphenols and catechins? There just isn’t enough known.

What I would suggest is actually putting some form of citrus in your tea, be it a dash of lemon juice, or even an orange peel. Citrus has been shown to actually increase how well the catechins and antioxidants in tea are absorbed by the body. You can also choose varieties of tea that contain a little citrus in them, and this should also provide some benefit as well.

Hope that helps!

For more reading on the subject, check out some other blogs I wrote here and here.

Rooibos does rock, I am in love with the Republic of Tea’s Good Hope Vanilla Rooibos lately. It has just a hint of vanilla, and it is nice and smooth. A great way to cap the night.

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Posted on July 9th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

4 Comments

  1. Jarrod Says:

    Thanks for answering my question Brian! I’m going to have to try that citrus trick with my tea too!

  2. James Says:

    Hi BSP,

    With regards to the orange/lemon peels added to tea, do you add a certain amount (like a teaspoon) and then just let it steep with the bag?

    I’ find the concept interesting, as Johnny Bowden has mentioned that the black tea/lemon peel combination is a powerful agent in the fight against skin cancer – and, being an outdoors-loving person and an Aussie, having something like this could be quite beneficial!

  3. Tara Says:

    So would almond or coconut milk be okay?? Since they don’t have the protein?

  4. Healthy Eating: How does milk interfere with the absorption of antioxidants? - Quora Says:

    [...] protein) in milk binds itself to the antioxidants in tea to render their effects useless. (source: http://brianstpierretraining.com…)This answer .Please specify the necessary improvements. Edit Link Text Show answer summary [...]

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