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Matcha myths debunked: Milk’s effect on matcha benefits

Matcha myths debunked: Milk’s effect on matcha benefits

I wanted to debunk a common matcha myth with you that even I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve succumbed to! It’s come up quite a bit with anyone I talk to about consuming matcha, and while speaking with various people, the common understanding that seems to be widely accepted is that milk proteins reduce the efficacy of matcha. And actually there are a few - now outdated - scientific studies that support this.

Heads up - nerdy mambo jumbo...

I don’t want to bore you with the technical jargon, but to understand what’s going on, you need to know what polyphenols are. Think of polyphenols as a family of naturally occurring antioxidant compounds that are found within plant cells, and in really high quantities in matcha. Polyphenols improve human health in multiple ways, mainly they're great at fighting free radicals which can cause chronic and degenerative diseases. Some of the different polyphenol compounds found in matcha include various catechin flavonols, flavandiols and phenolic acids.

 

So basically...

The science says that caseins, (a protein found in animal milk), bind to polyphenols (antioxidant compounds found in matcha) and it's been observed where the protein “wraps” itself around the catechins (a type of polyphenol). This process is called non-covalent cross-linking and it’s believed “might reduce the bioavailability and accessibility of the polyphenols”.  As you can see, this supports the myth that animal milk affects the body’s ability to access the benefits of these biologically active compounds.

Now what I didn’t know is that polyphenols are unstable and highly prone to degradation. Various studies have found that the antioxidant index of polyphenols in green tea can be protected through interaction with dairy proteins inside the unstable intestinal environment. This is because our gut changes throughout the day/ when you're sick etc., too, meaning a doubly changeable environment. So the non-covalent cross linking mentioned above of dairy proteins wrapping themselves around polyphenols, in fact protects them, as they are being digested by our bodies.

It was found that the presence of dairy significantly improved polyphenol stability in the intestinal phase and increased the antioxidant activity by 42% (milk) compared to the control. These results suggest that simultaneous consumption of green tea and dairy products helps to maintain the integrity and antioxidant activity of polyphenols during digestion.

 

But wait, there's more...

What is interesting to note though, and something I wasn’t aware of before, is that temperature is critical to maintaining polyphenol levels. While the highest levels of polyphenols were observed when the tea was brewed at 90◦C for 10mins, after that they began to degrade and levels were seen to diminish by up to 21% after undergoing heating at 70◦C and higher for 30min. Polyphenols can also be directly affected by storage conditions through oxidation and heat. So remember to store your matcha in a cool, dry location most importantly out of view of direct sunlight.

So it’s safe to say that this myth has been BUSTED! Several statistical analyses have shown that milk does not impair the bioavailability of polyphenols or their potential beneficial effects in chronic and degenerative disease prevention… So who’s brewing the matcha?

 

 

 

You can find the studies to back up this information here:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257698/#B13-nutrients-03-00725
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7796401/
  • https://pubs.rsc.org/En/content/articlelanding/2014/fo/c4fo00203b/unauth
  • https://mdpi-res.com/d_attachment/ijms/ijms-22-13548/article_deploy/ijms-22-13548.pdf?version=1639732831
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128135723000099#:~:text=However%2C%20the%20polyphenols%20are%20unstable%20and%20highly%20prone,result%20to%20the%20decrease%20of%20polyphenols%27%20biological%20activities
  • https://www.jstor.org/stable/48513964

 

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