Dairy Intake Blocks Antioxidant Absorption

Dairy Intake Blocks Antioxidant Absorption

Milk + Berries = No Antioxidants - What's more enjoyable than a big bowl of fresh, juicy berries with a little milk poured on it? Simple. Classic. Healthy... Or is it? While berries are brimming with antioxidants, researchers have discovered that you cannot absorb these little powerhouses of health if you eat your blueberries or blackberries with milk.

The Antioxidant Story

The antioxidants in berries and other plant foods belong to a group of nutrients known as phytonutrients. "Phyto" is the Greek word for "plant," and the nutrients in the plant are natural chemical compounds that help protect the plant against germs, UV damage, insects, and other threats. The great thing is that when you eat plant foods, you will also benefit from these protective chemical compounds. Some of the phytonutrients are considered antioxidants because they help defend our cardiovascular system against oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

What the Research Says

Scientists are finding that if you eat your antioxidants with dairy, you can say good-bye to all the disease-prohibiting and health-promoting properties offered by these natural chemical compounds. Lately the media has touted the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate and tea. But what if these well-reported, antioxidant-rich plant foods are combined with milk? A study that looked at the effect of mixing milk with chocolate showed that milk successfully interfered with absorption of chocolate's naturally occurring antioxidants, and that was true whether one drank chocolate milk or ate a piece of milk chocolate candy. In either case, the antioxidants in chocolate were not available to the human body. Another study done on milk and tea had similar results. It was shown that casein, one of the proteins in milk, inhibited "the favorable health effects of tea on vascular function."

Back to Berries

If you are one of those who have already eschewed the use of chocolate and tea because you know there are better ways to get antioxidants without the risks posed by these addictive foods, you'll want to know that researchers have confirmed the negative effect of milk on antioxidants in both blackberries and blueberries. These berries contain the antioxidant ellagic acid which may play a role in preventing age-related cognitive decline. When the berries were combined with milk, none of the ellagic acid was absorbed into the bloodstream.

Dairy-Free is Antioxidant Friendly

Each of the plant foods researched so far have different antioxidants:

  • Blueberries - Caffeic acid
  • Blackberries - Ellagic acid
  • Tea - Catechins
  • Chocolate - Flavonoids

Yet while the antioxidants were different, the detrimental effect of milk on their absorption was the same. Plants contain many, many different kinds of antioxidants. Until research is done on every single antioxidant known to man, eating a plant-based diet and avoiding milk and all dairy products avoids the question of whether or not dairy is interfering with the function of a particular antioxidant. Plant-based eaters can be sure they are enjoying all the disease protection and cell vitality that plants have to offer. Remember, From Sun to Plant to Plate - That's the Starch-Smart® Solution!

Medical journal references:

(1) Antioxidant Activity of Blueberry Fruit is Impaired by Association with Milk

(2) Antioxidant Status in Humans after Consumption of Blackberry Juices With and Without Defatted Milk

(3) Neal Barnard MD demonstrates how milk blocks iron absorption

(4) Plasma Antioxidants from Chocolate

(5) Nutrient-Blocking Effects From Dairy

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Comments (4)

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  1. Tina

You don't give any listing of resources as to where you acquired this information so I don't feel comfortable in posting this page anywhere. Can you give some links as to what makes you believe this information you posted? Thanks.

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  1. Sean Carney

Hello Tina,
Thank you very much for your comment. We did include some hyperlinks to the sources of the data and hope you might like to follow them. In case this makes it easier, I will paste the actual urls here:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v424/n6952/abs/4241013a.html
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584908007454
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf8026149
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/nutrient-blocking-effects-of-dairy/
Please let us know what you think after reading these pages and also we would be happy to hear how you feel this information might be better presented in order to make it something you would be happy to share with others.
Sean Carney

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  1. Cacao Gal

Do the antioxidant properties decrease only when the plant-based food is consumed at the exact same time as the dairy?
OR if I have milk at 8am and, let's say, raw cacao nibs at 4pm, would that dairy also have an effect on antioxidant absorption?

Does my diet have to be 100% dairy free in order to obtain all the lovely antioxidants from these foods?

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  1. Linda Carney MD

Hi Cacao Gal, thanks for posting.

To get all the nutrients from foods, you need a gut microbiome that has not been exposed to animal protein's acidity within the past 30 days. The sulfur-containing amino acids that are so prevalent in animal proteins create sulfuric acid, which will destroy the alkaline-loving, plant-digesting bacteria for up to 30 days. Avoid dairy and avoid all animal proteins for at least 30 days, for best anti-oxidant absorption.

Cacao purports to be "good for human health" because of the anti-oxidants it contains, but cacao has 55% of its calories coming from fat, so for that reason, as well as the cardiac stimulants in cacao, I do not recommend cacao. Cacao also contains caffeine and theobromine, which are sympathomimetic amines that I would rather avoid. Therefore I cannot recommend cacao (despite all of its antioxidants), but rather, I recommend carob instead.

Healthy Wishes,
Dr. Carney

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