Jan. 30, 2023 -- Having a cup of coffee with milk may do more than put you in a good mood every morning. The combination may actually inhibit inflammation, say researchers at the University of Copenhagen.
Scientists came to this conclusion by going into the lab and looking at how naturally occurring antioxidants -- called polyphenols -- react when they’re mixed with amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Polyphenols are found in various fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, wine, and beer.
In the study, researchers artificially inflamed immune cells, which were then given a combination of polyphenols and amino acids, or just polyphenols, or nothing at all. The combination of polyphenols and amino acids was twice as effective at fighting inflammation in the cells as polyphenol alone was. The results were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
"In the study, we show that when a polyphenol has reacted with an amino acid, the polyphenol has an extra inhibitory effect on inflammation in immune cells. Therefore, it is natural to imagine that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans," said Marianne Nissen Lund, a professor with the university’s Department of Food Science, who has been a leader in the study.
Other studies have found that polyphenols bind to proteins in some foods and drinks, a news release from the university said.
"Our results show that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also occurs in some coffee drinks with milk that we have investigated,” Lund said.
Coffee beans are full of polyphenols and milk is rich in proteins, the release said. A similar reaction might occur between polyphenols and amino acids in a meat dish with vegetables or a smoothie if a protein like milk or yogurt was used, Lund said.
Lund said the university hopes to obtain funds to investigate the health effects on humans.