FEB 15, 2023 10:00 AM PST

Coffee and milk together produce powerful anti-inflammatory effects

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

How do you take your coffee? Black? Sugar? Milk? A combination of sugar and milk?

According to a team of researchers at the University of Copenhagen, the coffee-milk drinkers may have it right. The team recently published the results of two studies highlighting the potentially inflammatory effects of drinking coffee with milk in two recently published articles in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and Food Chemistry.

In The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers specifically point to the combination of antioxidants and proteins, which may double anti-inflammatory benefits.

The idea behind this study builds on current knowledge about antioxidants, which can help prevent oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in the body. While inflammation is a normal response (especially when foreign substances like bacteria and viruses enter the body), too much inflammation can cause damage to cells. Polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, are a particularly well-studied molecule that happens to be found in a range of foods, including fruits and vegetables.

But there is little work done exploring how polyphenols interact with different molecules and the consequences of those interactions. To test those interactions, researchers exposed immune system cells to either polyphenols or polyphenols exposed to amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Overall, immune cells exposed to the polyphenol-ammino acid combo were more effective at tackling inflammation, almost twice as effective.

In a forthcoming study in Food Chemistry, researchers looked at specific foods to further explore the anti-inflammatory effect of antioxidant-protein combinations. They chose a cup of coffee with milk to study the combination because coffee beans are rich in polyphenols, while milk has plenty of protein.

While researchers found these reactions specifically in coffee and milk, the team speculates that other combinations of food that bring together antioxidants and proteins could also yield a similar anti-inflammatory effect; for example, combining a meat entrée (protein) with vegetables high in antioxidants (such as colorful vegetables) may also have a similar, double anti-inflammatory effect.

Sources: Eurekalert!; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; Food Chemistry

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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