Adding Milk to Your Coffee May Reduce Inflammation, New Research Shows

Researchers out of the University of Copenhagen found that combining the antioxidants in coffee with the protein in milk can ultimately benefit your health.

For many of us, our mornings are not complete without a cup of coffee. And while that might be (mostly) universal, how we take our coffee is more personal; some of us add a dash of cream and sugar, while others opt for milk alternatives like almond, oat, or soy. However, new research suggests that the most basic cup of joe addition is superior for your health: milk. A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry noted that, when consumed together, the proteins found in milk and the antioxidants in coffee can double an immune cell's anti-inflammatory response.

To figure out the anti-inflammatory benefits of drinking coffee with milk, the study researchers first examined how polyphenol (an antioxidant in coffee) reacts with an amino acid (which make up the protein in milk). They did so by applying artificial inflammation to immune cells. Then, some cells received varying doses of polyphenols and amino acids, while others only got polyphenols. The control group in the experiment didn't receive anything.

Person pouring milk into cup of coffee
Getty / d3sign

The team found that immune cells that were exposed to both polyphenols and amino acids were twice as effective at warding off inflammation than those that just reacted to polyphenols, says Andrew Williams, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen's department of veterinary and animal sciences at the faculty of health and medical sciences and senior author of the study.

As a result, the team determined that coffee beans, which are rich in polyphenols, and milk, which has protein, boast anti-inflammatory properties when consumed together. And the same goes for other drinks and meals you create with similar ingredients, says Marianne Nissen Lund, professor at the University of Copenhagen's the department of food science, professor and study lead. "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 Nissen Lund.

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