Health & Wellbeing

How adding some milk to your coffee may enhance its health benefits

How adding some milk to your coffee may enhance its health benefits
New research suggests antioxidant properties in coffee may be enhanced with the addition of milk
New research suggests antioxidant properties in coffee may be enhanced with the addition of milk
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New research suggests antioxidant properties in coffee may be enhanced with the addition of milk
New research suggests antioxidant properties in coffee may be enhanced with the addition of milk

New research has found adding a little milk to your morning coffee may enhance the drink's anti-inflammatory properties. Across several studies food scientists have demonstrated how milk proteins can bind with antioxidants in coffee, amplifying any potential health benefits.

The research focused on a family of organic compounds known as polyphenols. Found in lots of foods, polyphenols have antioxidant effects, reducing oxidative stress in a human body. However, surprisingly little is known about how polyphenols interact with other molecules found in food.

In two new studies, researchers from the University of Copenhagen zoomed in on one specific polyphenol interaction – caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid (the two main polyphenols found in coffee) and cysteine (a key protein in milk).

The first new study looked at the effects of these polyphenol-protein combinations on immune cells in lab conditions. The researchers then artificially inflamed those immune cells to see how effectively the polyphenol-protein combo prevented inflammation.

The results were impressive, with the protein-spiked polyphenols turning out to be twice as effective at preventing inflammation in the immune cells, compared to 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," said Marianne Nissen Lund, lead researcher on the study. "As such, it is clearly imaginable that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans."

The next step in the research was to investigate whether this specific polyphenol-protein bond takes place in a coffee drink with milk. Here, Lund and colleagues effectively showed commercial coffee beverages do generate these novel bound molecules.

"Our result demonstrates that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also happens in some of the coffee drinks with milk that we studied," said Lund. "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."

Lund also suggests it is likely these beneficial polyphenol-protein interactions occur in other food combinations such as meats and vegetables or fruit smoothies with milk.

At this point the researchers have only observed these anti-inflammatory effects in cell experiments. Animal studies are the next stage for the researchers, and then potentially human investigations. According to Lund there is also ongoing work looking at ways to enhance polyphenol activity in human bodies by engineering them with proteins.

"Because humans do not absorb that much polyphenol, many researchers are studying how to encapsulate polyphenols in protein structures which improve their absorption in the body," said Lund. "This strategy has the added advantage of enhancing the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols."

The new studies were published in Food Chemistry and The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Way to go guys. Combine your coffee breaks with biology. I can't wait to see how it works with breakfast cereal.
Brian M
Of course, there is the downside to adding milk - Calories, and it would need to be fully skimmed milk as well to avoid other health issues.
Not to mention the risk of dental decay (caries), black coffee might stain, but adding milk and sipping over a period of time can result in the teeth being bathed continuously in acid courtesy of your mouths bacteria. There is also a tentative link between dental decay/gum disease and the risk of dementia.

Doing the right for your health is never simple!
There is a plethora of online columns citing studies that say just the opposite: that milk binds to the polyphenols and limits their presence in the blood stream. I have been trying to wean myself off it for two weeks now. I don’t know why I’m surprised…oy
Skip the cow milk, use soy milk instead. Avoid the growth hormones (which is why calves quadruple their weight in under a year), and instead gain a lot of other benefits.
Marco McClean
Also sugar is good. Adding milk and sugar to coffee makes it taste good enough for you to actually want to drink it, besides the addiction whispering and then shouting in the back of your brain to avoid caffeine withdrawal headache and crippling pissy moods. Coffee in minute quantities, as a flavor spice, adds to enjoyment of other foods, the way salt or pepper or mustard or other spices and condiments do, but as a drink itself, alone, coffee is disgusting, almost as disgusting as alcohol drinks or the expensive bitter weeds that have replaced regular lettuce in salad as a carrier for yummy dressing.
Interesting article Rich: I had to check the calendar to make sure I hadn't slept for a few months and awakened on April Fool's day!
Black coffee has always tasted harsh to me, a little creamer and I'm a happy camper. The sugar (carcinogen) is not necessary for milk or cream in my coffee. I enjoyed the article but don't believe al the benefits as outlined.
We all know that calories in has to equal calories burned - and when you eat & when you burn are more important than the actual numbers. So while some may think there is a downside to pro-anti-inflammatory drinks that add calories, I think the only downside is describing the benefit of dairy in coffee!
Personally, I prefer dairy in my coffee, soy flours and other cakey powders just don't cut it. And I'm of European ancestry so soy is not my first choice for diet. As an environmentalist, I prefer animal milk to plant milk-like formulations that require much more water to produce.
Okay Rich - you have thrown down a gauntlet for coffee and anti-inflammation - keep the articles coming so we have the theories clearly proven - or at least understand what contradictions are left to solve!
are we talking my double shot home pulled espresso with freshly ground, recently roasted beans, or that stuff americans somewhat unreasonably refer to as "coffee" ? because they are worlds apart
Milk protein, hear that? Don't get the oat kind that works worse. Looking forward to the stir stick with a test ranking strip...and whatever they used in the first place.