Summary: According to a new study, adding a splash of milk to your cup of coffee can have anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers claim that the combination of polyphenols and proteins doubles the anti-inflammatory properties of immune cells.
Source: University of Copenhagen
Can something as simple as a cup of coffee with milk have an anti-inflammatory effect in humans? Apparently so, according to a new study from the University of Copenhagen.
A combination of protein and antioxidants doubles the anti-inflammatory properties of immune cells. Researchers hope to be able to study the health effects in humans.
Whenever bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances enter the body, our immune system responds by deploying white blood cells and chemicals to protect us. This reaction, commonly called inflammation, also occurs when we overload tendons and muscles and is characteristic of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Antioxidants known as polyphenols are found in humans, plants, fruits, and vegetables. This group of antioxidants is also used by the food industry to slow down oxidation and the deterioration of food quality and thus prevent bad tastes and rancidity. Polyphenols are also known to be healthy for humans because they help reduce oxidative stress in the body that causes inflammation.
But there are still many unknowns about polyphenols. Relatively few studies have investigated what happens when polyphenols react with other molecules, such as proteins mixed into foods that we then eat.
In a new study, researchers from the Department of Food Science, in collaboration with researchers from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, studied the behavior of polyphenols when combined with amino acids, the elements constituents of proteins. The results are promising.
“In the study, we show that when 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.
“We will now investigate further, first in animals. After that, we hope to receive research funds that will allow us to study the effect in humans,” says Professor Marianne Nissen Lund of the Department of Food Science, who led the study.
The study has just been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Twice as effective against inflammation
To study the anti-inflammatory effect of combining polyphenols with proteins, researchers applied artificial inflammation to immune cells. Some cells received different doses of polyphenols reacted with an amino acid, while others only received polyphenols at the same doses. A control group received nothing.
Researchers observed that immune cells treated with the combination of polyphenols and amino acids were twice as effective at fighting inflammation as cells to which only polyphenols were added.
“It is interesting to have now observed the anti-inflammatory effect in cellular experiments. And obviously, that only made us more interested in understanding these health effects in more detail. So the next step will be to study the effects on animals,” says Associate Professor Andrew Williams of the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, who is also the lead author of the paper. ‘study.
Found in cafe au lait
Previous studies conducted by the researchers demonstrated that polyphenols bind to proteins in meat products, milk and beer. In another new study, they tested whether molecules also bind to each other in a coffee drink with milk. This is because 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 coffee drinks with milk that we studied. In fact, the reaction occurs so rapidly that it has been difficult to avoid it in any of the foods we have studied so far,” says Marianne Nissen Lund.
Therefore, the researcher has no trouble imagining that the reaction and the potentially beneficial anti-inflammatory effect also occur when other foods consisting of protein and fruits or vegetables are combined.
“I can imagine something similar happening, for example, in a meat dish with vegetables or a smoothie, if you make sure to add proteins like milk or yogurt,” says Marianne Nissen Lund.
Both industry and the research community have taken note of the major benefits of polyphenols. As such, they are working on how to add the right amounts of polyphenols to foods for the best quality. The new research results are also promising in this context:
“Because humans do not absorb polyphenols as much, many researchers are investigating how to encapsulate polyphenols in protein structures that enhance their absorption into the body. This strategy has the added benefit of enhancing the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols” , explains Marianne Nissen Lund.
The research is funded by the Independent Research Fund of Denmark and carried out in collaboration with the Technical University of Dresden in Germany.
- Polyphenols are a group of natural antioxidants important to humans.
- They prevent and delay the oxidation of healthy chemicals and organs in our body, protecting them from damage or destruction.
- Polyphenols are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, red wine and beer.
- Due to their antioxidant properties, polyphenols are used in the food industry to minimize the oxidation of fats in particular, as well as the deterioration of food quality, to prevent aftertaste and rancidity.
About this inflammation research news
Author: Michael Jensen
Source: University of Copenhagen
Contact: Michael Jensen – University of Copenhagen
Picture: Image is in public domain
Original research: The findings will appear in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry