Epidemiological studies have shown that populations consuming fruits, vegetables, tea, cocoa, and red wine have lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and eye disease. These health effects have largely been attributed to the polyphenol content of the foods and drinks studied. Black tea is rich in a range of polyphenolic compounds that could potentially have health-promoting properties. The scale of consumption of tea in the United Kingdom means that it could be an appropriate vehicle for increasing the antioxidant activity and polyphenol content of human plasma. However, it is common practice in the United Kingdom to add milk to tea, and some studies have suggested that this may decrease the overall antioxidant capacity. The objective of the present study was to analyze and compare the antioxidant capacity of 5 brands of tea and to test the hypothesis that the addition of different volumes of whole milk, semiskimmed, and skimmed milk may affect the antioxidant capacity. Each of the teas analyzed was a significant source of antioxidants. The addition of 10, 15, and 20 mL of whole, semiskimmed, and skimmed bovine milk to a 200-mL tea infusion decreased the total antioxidant capacity of all the brands of tea. Skimmed milk decreased the total antioxidant capacity of the tea infusion significantly (P < .05) more than either whole milk or semiskimmed milk. We conclude that black tea is a valuable source of antioxidants and that the effect of milk on the total antioxidant capacity may be related to the fat content of the milk.
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