However, there is still a lot we do not know about polyphenols. Few studies have looked into what happens when polyphenols combine with other molecules, such as proteins mixed into meals that we eat.
In a new study, experts from the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen collaborated with researchers from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences to investigate how polyphenols react when mixed with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The outcomes have been encouraging.
Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Mixing Polyphenols in Coffee with Protein in Milk
“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 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,” says Professor Marianne Nissen Lund from the Department of Food Science, who headed the study.
The findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
The researchers used fake inflammation to test the anti-inflammatory effect of mixing polyphenols and proteins. Some cells were given different doses of polyphenols that had interacted with an amino acid, whereas others were just given polyphenols in the same doses. A control group received no treatment.
The researchers discovered that immune cells treated with a mixture of polyphenols and amino acids were twice as effective at combating inflammation as cells treated alone with polyphenols.
“It is interesting to have now observed the anti-inflammatory effect in cell experiments. And obviously, this has only made us more interested in understanding these health effects in greater detail. So, the next step will be to study the effects in animals,” says Associate Professor Andrew Williams of the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, who is also a senior author of the study.
“Our result demonstrates that the reaction between polyphenols and proteins also happens in some of the coffee drinks with milk that we studied. The reaction happens so quickly that it has been difficult to avoid in any of the foods that we’ve studied so far,” says Marianne Nissen Lund.
As a result, the researcher believes that the reaction and potentially helpful anti-inflammatory impact occur when other foods containing proteins and fruits or vegetables are mixed.
“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 yoghurt,” says Marianne Nissen Lund.
Both industry and academia have recognized polyphenols’ significant benefits. As a result, they are researching ways to add the appropriate amounts of polyphenols to foods to get the best quality. In this regard, fresh study findings are also promising:
Enhancing the Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Polyphenols
“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. This strategy has the added advantage of enhancing the anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols,” explains Marianne Nissen Lund.
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