In a recent study, researchers at the Department of Food Science, in collaboration with researchers from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, at the University of Copenhagen have discovered evidence that the mixture of coffee and milk has anti-inflammatory effects when consumed.

On January 30th, a study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (led by Professor Marianne Nissen Lund) that explains how this common combination of ingredients can limit inflammation.  To test the theory, the study “applied artificial inflammation to immune cells.  Some cells received various doses of polyphenols that had reacted with an amino acid, while others only received the same doses. A control group received nothing” (Science Daily).

The results showed that cells that received a dosage of polyphenols and amino acids were twice as effective as cells that received purely polyphenols.  Now, you may be asking how this relates to coffee and milk?  The answer to this question lies in the definitions of terms used above.  Polyphenols are a “category of plant compounds that offer health benefits” (Healthline).  They are found in coffee beans, and therefore, coffee.  Amino acids are “molecules that combine to form proteins,” and therefore are found in a majority of animal products, including milk (Medline Plus).

It is an established fact in the scientific community that polyphenols and amino acids bond, and therefore, the link between the two substances and anti-inflammatory effects is believable to scientists after the recent study performed by the Department of Food Science.  Furthermore, considering how common both substances are, it is likely that a similar reaction occurs when protein is combined with other fruits and vegetables with high amounts of polyphenol.  According to Marianne Nissen Lund, “I can imagine that something similar happens in, for example, a meat dish with vegetables or a smoothie, if you make sure to add some protein like milk or yogurt”.

The immune system is incredibly important to the function of the human body, as it serves to maintain order and defend against both foreign and local threats. When pathogens are able to infiltrate the body, they trigger innate immunity defenses, which in turn causes inflammation (as histamines which are released dilate local blood vessels and increase capillary permeability and cause the area to swell with fluid, which thus, causes inflammation).

Although immune cells (and in particular, innate immunity) cause inflammation, it is also the job of the immune system to limit inflammation by fighting off any unwanted antigen quickly, as the faster the antigen is killed, the faster inflammation goes away.  Immune cells of all types serve this function, ranging from innate to adaptive.  Thus, a compound that can increase the reaction rate of immune cells is incredibly valuable to animal health, including human health.

The results of the study show that polyphenols that have reacted with amino acids can double the effectiveness of the anti-inflammatory process of immune cells.  So, next time you are ordering a coffee, remember to ask for a splash of milk – you just might thank me later.

Coffee with milk (563800) (cropped)

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