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Coffee with milk has powerful anti-inflammatory properties

A new study led by the University of Copenhagen has found that coffee with milk can have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, since the combination of antioxidants from coffee with proteins from milk doubles the anti-inflammatory properties of immune cells.

When pathogens and other foreign substances enter our bodies, our immune systems react by deploying an army of white blood cells and chemical substances to protect us, leading to inflammation. To counteract the bodily damaged caused by inflammation, antioxidants such as polyphenols help reducing the oxidative stress in our bodies. However, much remains unknown about these beneficial substances. Now, the researchers have examined what happens when polyphenols react with other molecules, such as amino acids (the building blocks of proteins).

“In the study, we show that as a polyphenol reacts with an amino acid, its inhibitory effect on inflammation in immune cells is enhanced,” said senior author Marianne Lund, an expert in Food Science at Copenhagen. “As such, it is clearly imaginable that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans. We will now investigate further, initially in animals. After that, we hope to receive research funding which will allow us to study the effect in humans.”

To investigate the anti-inflammatory effect of polyphenols mixed with proteins, the scientists applied artificial inflammation to immune cells, and discovered that the cells exposed to this combination were twice as effective at fighting inflammation as those to which only polyphenols were added.

While previous research has found that polyphenols bind to proteins in meat products, milk, and beer, thus leading to major health benefits, the present study has shown that this process occurs also in coffee with milk.

“Our result demonstrates that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also happens in some of the coffee drinks with milk that we studied. In fact, the reaction happens so quickly that it has been difficult to avoid in any of the foods that we’ve studied so far,” Lund reported.  

“Because humans do not absorb that much polyphenol, many researchers are studying how to encapsulate polyphenols in protein structures which improve their absorption in the body. This strategy has the added advantage of enhancing the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols,” she concluded. 

The study is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry


By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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