By Oge Okafor
If suddenly you stumble on a friend’s and meet the family taking their tea without milk; what thought would go through your mind? The first thought would likely be that the family has been hit by the recession. We have come to acquire the habit to add flavourings like a bit of milk, to our regular cup of tea.
But scientists say that drop of milk can completely negate all the benefits tea can have on our health. A surprising study by German scientists has revealed that adding milk to tea stops its ability to dilate blood vessels and give antioxidant benefits, two protective factors for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. They compared the effects of tea on their vascular system, with tea, water and tea with milk and found that tea relaxes blood vessels (improves flow-mediated dilation), but tea with milk does not.
The small research study was conducted on 16 healthy women volunteers who drank half a litre of black tea with and without skimmed milk, or just hot water as a control. Before and after drinking their tea or water, the women were examined by ultrasound to measure the dilation of an artery in their arm.
The results showed that the “flow mediated dilation” (FMD) of the artery was significantly improved by black tea, but this effect was completely “blunted” by the addition of milk.
The researchers then explored the impact of milk proteins on the aortas of rats. They found that black tea caused the rat aortas to relax and also stimulated the production of nitric oxide that makes this happen. However, with milk neither of these things happened, and they suggest that the caseins (types of milk protein) were combining with tea catechins (antioxidants that comprise about a quarter of the dry weight of tea) to prevent them from stimulating the nitric oxide production.
Researchers believe that the most likely explanation is that the caseins, proteins found in milk, form complexes with catechins in tea, its most important flavonoids.
Interestingly, they found that proteins in soy milk have the same effect.
While many people drink tea because it is pleasant, soothing drink, tea has many health benefits, which were known to ancient cultures like Chinese and Indians.
Tea has many active ingredients that affect our health. It is particularly rich in antioxidants and vitamins. It is found to improve our immune system, to control blood sugar levels, reduce damage to cells and prevent cardiovascular diseases. But, if you add milk to your tea, its beneficial effects on your vascular system go away. Previous studies have shown that tea protects against cardiovascular disease, but nobody had investigated the effect of adding milk to the drink.
The researchers are not suggesting that people who enjoy their tea with milk must stop, but they do recommend now and again that if you are used to having it with milk, then have it occasionally without milk because you could increase the benefit to your heart.
Did I hear that expression, Aarrgh! Take tea without milk?
The best advice would be follow your instincts. But remember, the next time you want to enjoy the full benefit of tea, make it tea without milk.
► Additional material from www.medicalnewstoday.com and healthstatus.com