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It’s easy to think of inflammation as a helpful friend who comes over to offer assistance when something around your house goes wrong — like your water pipes bursting or a tree falling through your roof.
But, the truth is that all too often, it’s an unwanted guest that often just won’t leave — moving in, piling dirty laundry on the floor and leaving dirty dishes on the coffee, attracting pests that can do even more damage.
That’s because while inflammation can be helpful at first, getting your body through an illness or injury, when the process sticks around, toxic effects begin to pile up.
And as those effects pile up, chronic low-grade inflammation — considered a root cause of disease — can make you seriously sick.
Luckily, defeating inflammation could be easier than you think.
That’s because according to researchers at the University of Copenhagen, kicking inflammation off your couch and sending it packing is as easy as taking your morning coffee with milk…
The intersection of polyphenols and protein
So how can coffee with milk put out the fires of inflammation? It all has to do with what happens when you combine polyphenols and proteins…
Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants found in the plant pigments of brightly colored fruits and vegetables (think purple, red and blue) and, of course, coffee.
These antioxidants have been shown to be particularly beneficial, helping to reduce the oxidative stress in the body that gives rise to inflammation.
But there’s a catch: It’s not easy for the body to absorb those polyphenols at a high enough level to truly experience their benefits.
Previous studies have found that fermentation can make polyphenols in berries more bioavailable. Another study found consuming blueberries with alpha-casein (a protein in cow’s milk) also increased the absorption of anthocyanins (very powerful polyphenols).
And now, the Copenhagen researchers have found that simply taking your coffee with milk can boost the inflammation-dousing power of polyphenols as well…
Double down on inflammation
Past studies have already demonstrated the ability of polyphenols to bind to proteins, including when the polyphenols in coffee mix with the proteins found in milk.
However, not much information was available on how this binding affects their benefits, an issue those Copenhagen researchers set out to correct.
To determine just how much anti-inflammatory power a combination of polyphenols and proteins has compared to polyphenols alone, the researchers stimulated artificial inflammation in immune cells.
From there, the scientists treated some cells with various doses of polyphenols that had reacted with amino acids from proteins, while others only received polyphenols in the same doses.
And of course, a control group received nothing whatsoever.
The researchers then observed the cells to declare a winner: They found that the immune cells treated with the combination of polyphenols and amino acids were fully twice as effective at fighting inflammation as the cells that were only given polyphenols.
In other words — adding proteins to polyphenols gave them twice the inflammation-fighting power and a way to overcome the lack of absorption of polyphenols alone!
“In the study, we show that as a polyphenol reacts with an amino acid, its inhibitory effect on inflammation in immune cells is enhanced. As such, it is clearly imaginable that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans,” says lead researcher, Professor Marianne Nissen Lund.
We’ve known for a while that coffee is chock full of health benefits. It’s great to understand more about why. I know I’ll be enjoying my coffee and cream guilt-free from now on!
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Coffee + Milk: A Dynamic Duo for Fighting Inflammation – SciTechDaily