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