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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is it true that drinking tea with milk keeps you from absorbing the healthful substances in tea?

tea with milk

A: Although it’s possible that you will get more of whatever health benefits can come from tea by drinking it without milk added, if you prefer your tea with milk, research is not strong enough to suggest that you change your habit.

Proteins in dairy and soymilk do seem to bind and form a complex with tea’s polyphenol compounds, which potentially reduce health benefits of drinking tea. However, with black tea, the few human studies there are suggest that adding milk does not make a difference to the amount or availability of tea’s beneficial compounds. In one human trial with green tea, although ECGC, green tea’s most-researched compound, was not completely blocked, it was reduced about 30 percent. However, the milk did not decrease the absorption of all types of catechin polyphenols found in green tea.

More research is needed to understand how beneficial tea is for heart health and reduced cancer risk. In cell and animal studies, tea’s compounds seem to inhibit cancer development at several stages: decreasing tumor growth, increasing self-destruction of cancer cells and restraining ability of cancer cells to spread. But population studies are inconsistent; AICR’s review of the global research found evidence too limited to draw any conclusions about tea and cancer risk. Many questions remain about how choice of tea, its brewing time and methods, and differences among people drinking it may all influence its effects.

As long as you aren’t choosing one of the highly sweetened options, tea remains a healthful choice and a much smarter alternative to sugary soft drinks.

For more information: AICR's Foods that Fight Cancer: Tea

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).

Published on 06/22/2015

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