Adding This To Your Morning Coffee Could Fend Off Inflammation, New Study Finds
Polyphenols, proteins, and the immune system.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen investigated a phenomenon by which polyphenols—compounds commonly found in plant foods (including coffee) that are known to fight inflammation2—bind to the proteins in milk and supercharge their anti-inflammatory effects. To test this, the researchers caused artificial inflammation in immune cells and then treated those cells with either polyphenols alone or polyphenols that had reacted with milk proteins.
The study showed that the cells that received the polyphenols/milk protein combination were twice as effective at fighting inflammation. This means that starting your day with a combination of the polyphenols found in coffee and the proteins found in milk may help your body fend off inflammation.
In fact, the researchers specifically tested coffee drinks with milk to see whether the phenomenon occurred. Professor Marianne N. Lund, Ph.D., one of the lead authors of the study, explained in a statement, "Our result demonstrates that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also happens in some of the coffee drinks with milk that we studied."
Fight inflammation with polyphenols.
That said, it's not just cappuccinos that will have this special combination of polyphenols and proteins. "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," continued Lund.
This is just a preliminary study on isolated cells, so researchers plan to study this phenomenon in animals and then humans to understand it on a more practical level. Lund explained, "It is clearly imaginable that this cocktail could also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in humans. We will now investigate further, initially in animals. After that, we hope to receive research funding, which will allow us to study the effect in humans."
Supercharge your coffee.
There's still a long way to go before we know exactly how much our morning brew might benefit our immune systems, but it's fun to think that something as simple and joyful as enjoying a cappuccino could support our ability to fight inflammation. In the meantime, we can focus on proven ways to fend off inflammation now, starting with consuming polyphenol-rich foods:
Get your polyphenols.
There are over 100 foods that are known to be rich in polyphenols3, and the leader board looks like this:
- Star anise
- Cocoa powder
- Mexican oregano, dried
- Celery seed
- Black chokeberry
- Dark chocolate
- Flaxseed meal
- Black elderberry
Looking at this list, it's easy to see how you might be able to add some of these ingredients to your morning coffee, tea, or smoothie.
Add some skin-loving protein.
You can also supercharge your morning coffee by adding collagen powder. A high-quality collagen supplement that contains proteins and antioxidants can support the immune system, as well as bone and skin health, and it will blend right into your morning brew. Try one of these nine collagen supplements as a starting point—maybe in a drool-worthy maple collagen latte?
Avoid sweet coffee drinks.
This study suggests coffee drinks with milk may hold hidden anti-inflammatory powers, but that doesn't mean sweet, syrupy coffee drinks should be on the menu every morning. Some of these drinks have more sugar than a can of soda, and sugar is known to trigger inflammation.
Preliminary research shows that the polyphenols in coffee and the proteins in milk react to supercharge your cells' inflammation-fighting powers. More research is needed to know more, so for now focus on practical ways to fight inflammation with your morning routine.
Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.