A simple cup of coffee with milk may have an anti-inflammatory effect in humans, a laboratory study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark discovered that a combination of proteins and antioxidants doubles the anti-inflammatory properties on immune cells.
Every time bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances enter the body, our immune system reacts by deploying white blood cells and chemicals to protect us.
This reaction, commonly known as inflammation, also occurs when we overload tendons and muscles and is characteristic of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Antioxidants known as polyphenols are found in humans, plants, fruits, and vegetables. They are also known to be healthy for humans, as they help reduce oxidative stress in the body that leads to inflammation.
The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, looked at how polyphenols behave when combined with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
“In the study, we show that when a polyphenol reacts with an amino acid, its inhibitory effect on inflammation in immune cells is increased. As such, it is clearly conceivable that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans.” said Professor Marianne Nissen of the University of Copenhagen.
“Now we will investigate further, initially in animals. After that, we hope to receive research funds that will allow us to study the effect in humans,” said Nissen, who led the study.
The researchers found that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also occurs in some of the latte drinks they studied.
To investigate the anti-inflammatory effect of combining polyphenols with proteins, the researchers applied artificial inflammation to immune cells.
Some of the cells received various doses of polyphenols that had reacted with an amino acid, while others only received polyphenols in the same doses. A control group received nothing.
The researchers found that immune cells treated with the combination of polyphenols and amino acids were twice as effective in fighting inflammation as cells that had only polyphenols added.
“It’s interesting to have now looked at the anti-inflammatory effect in experiments with cells. And obviously, this has only made us more interested in understanding these health effects in greater detail. So the next step will be to study the effects in animals,” said Associate Professor Andrew Williams of the University of Copenhagen, who is also the lead author of the study.
Previous studies by the researchers showed that polyphenols bind to proteins in meat products, milk and beer.
In another new study, published in the journal Food Chemistry, the researchers tested whether the molecules also bind to each other in a latte drink.
Coffee beans are full of polyphenols, while milk is high in protein.
“Our result demonstrates that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also occurs in some of the latte drinks we studied. In fact, the reaction occurs so quickly that it has been difficult to avoid in any of the foods we have studied, so far,” Nissen said.
The researchers said it is possible that the reaction and potentially beneficial anti-inflammatory effect also occur when other foods consisting of protein and fruit or vegetables are combined.
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