Unleashing the Secret Anti-Inflammatory Power of Milk and Coffee: The Polyphenol Connection
Have you ever noticed that your coffee with milk feels like a comforting hug in a cup? It turns out, there’s more to it than just the warm, creamy taste. A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has shed light on a new, exciting discovery about the potential anti-inflammatory properties of combining polyphenols and proteins in coffee drinks with milk.
What are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are a group of naturally occurring antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, red wine, and beer. They are crucial for human health as they protect our bodies from damage and destruction by preventing and delaying the oxidation of healthy chemical substances and organs. The food industry also utilizes the antioxidant properties of polyphenols to minimize the oxidation of fats and the deterioration of food quality to avoid off flavors and rancidity.
The Polyphenol-Protein Connection
The research team at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science, in collaboration with the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, set out to investigate how polyphenols react with amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) when combined. In a series of experiments, they applied artificial inflammation to immune cells and observed the cells’ ability to fight inflammation. The results were promising: cells treated with a combination of polyphenols and amino acids were twice as effective at fighting inflammation as cells that only received polyphenols.
Coffee and Milk: The Dynamic Duo
The researchers have previously demonstrated that polyphenols bind to proteins in meat products, milk, and beer. In a new study, they tested whether the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also occurs in a coffee drink with milk. And what do you know? The result was a resounding YES. Coffee beans are packed with polyphenols, while milk is rich in proteins, making coffee with milk the perfect drink for unleashing the anti-inflammatory power of polyphenols.
“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,” says Professor Marianne Nissen Lund from the Department of Food Science.
The Potential Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
The researchers believe that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also occurs when other foods consisting of proteins and fruits or vegetables are combined. For example, a meat dish with vegetables or a smoothie with added protein like milk or yogurt.
“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,” says Marianne Nissen Lund.
The Future of Polyphenols
With the promising results of the new study, researchers and the food industry are now looking into incorporating polyphenols into food products to improve their anti-inflammatory effects. One of the challenges in doing so is that humans don’t absorb polyphenols well. To address this, researchers are exploring ways to encapsulate polyphenols in protein structures to improve their absorption in the body.
This strategy not only improves absorption, but also enhances the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols. Some of the food products that researchers are working on include coffee and milk, which are already rich in polyphenols and proteins.
“Our recent studies show that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins happens so quickly in coffee drinks with milk, that it has been difficult to avoid in any of the foods we’ve studied so far. I can imagine that something similar happens in other foods, like meat dishes with vegetables or smoothies, if you make sure to add some protein like milk or yogurt,” says Professor Marianne Nissen Lund.
Polyphenols in coffee and milk have already been shown to have a positive impact on inflammation in the body. With further research and development, the potential for these products to improve human health could be huge.
So, whether it’s a meat dish with veggies, a smoothie with yogurt, or your morning coffee with milk, adding a little bit of protein can enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols.