Coffee that is combined with milk may double the natural anti-inflammatory properties of immune cells, according to research published this week in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
For the study, researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark investigated how polyphenols behaved when combined with certain amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
The research does not yet provide clear connections between consumer coffee consumption and health outcomes. To this point, this particular research has focused on studying cells in laboratory settings, while the researchers seek further funding to apply the premises to animal research, then to human research.
“In the study, we show that as a polyphenol reacts with an amino acid, its inhibitory effect on inflammation in immune cells is enhanced,” University of Copenhagen professor and study author Marianne Nissen Lund said in an announcement of the findings. “As such, it is clearly imaginable that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans.”
Roasted coffee is naturally high in certain polyphenols, naturally occurring organic compounds that can act as antioxidants. Coffee is a particularly high in chlorogenic acids, which have been the subject of much scientific speculation regarding some of coffee’s perceived health benefits.
The researchers in Denmark noted that relatively few studies have investigated what happens when polyphenols react with other molecules, like proteins mixed with other consumed foods — e.g. milk mixed with coffee.
“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,” said Lund. “This strategy has the added advantage of enhancing the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols.”
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