Let’s start by examining the anti-inflammatory claims of coffee alone. The active ingredients said to yield these benefits are called polyphenols, and they are a type of antioxidant. Polyphenols are found in a variety of plant foods, and they are known to reduce inflammation. Studies have been done on coffee specifically: one study showed that inflammation-related blood markers were lower in those who drink coffee as opposed to non-coffee drinkers, and a more recent study clearly concluded that coffee indeed has anti-inflammatory effects. The only issue is that the body isn’t absorbing polyphenols very easily.
What about milk? The story with dairy is a bit more complicated, as it’s anecdotally known to increase levels of inflammation. However, a recent research paper suggests that combining dairy with coffee may actually yield even greater anti-inflammatory effects than coffee alone. If this sounds unexpected or plain confusing, that’s because it is. Luckily, the researchers did a wonderful job explaining their findings.
The recent paper was conducted at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the results were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in January 2023. The premise of the study was simple; the researchers wanted to find out what happened when polyphenol antioxidants were mixed with specific amino acids. Previous studies have suggested that polyphenols are absorbed twice as effectively when they bind to proteins in meat, dairy, and beer.
Since coffee is full of polyphenols, and milk is a complete source of protein (meaning it contains all 9 types of essential amino acids), the mixture of the two was the perfect study subject. What the researchers found was truly amazing. When the polyphenols were combined with amino acids, they had a stronger protective effect against inflammation than the effect you typically see with coffee alone. The anti-inflammatory potential of coffee with milk is double that of coffee alone. So, if you’re after the youth-boosting, cancer-preventing, anti-inflammatory properties of coffee, drinking it with milk offers the best results.
These conclusions are highly promising. However, it also needs to be stated that this current study was conducted in vitro. Therefore, we still need to wait for the team to confirm these effects in live animals and humans. Still, there are a few other reasons why you should consider drinking your coffee with milk. We enumerate them all in the following section.
Before we proceed with each of the benefits, let’s get one critical point clear. Milk and dairy do not actually increase levels of inflammation in the body. “To my knowledge, there is no clinical data that shows dairy consumption increases chronic inflammation, rather it is a myth that continues to get perpetuated,” says Amy Goodson, a Registered Dietitian and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics to Reader's Digest. “In fact, the collective evidence consistently shows that the opposite is true: Eating dairy foods as part of a nutrient-rich, balanced diet is not linked to chronic inflammation and actually may reduce inflammation.”
So unless you’re sensitive to dairy or have any medical reasons that preclude you from consuming it, there’s no reason for you to stay away from milk. Dairy is an extremely hydrating food, full of protein, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. The same holds true for its anti-inflammatory properties: the latest reviews suggest that dairy reduces inflammatory biomarkers.
Hence, by combining coffee with milk, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds – a nutrition cocktail that contains proteins, calcium, antioxidants, and other crucial nutrients. This nutrition cocktail will lower inflammation in the body and support strong bones and muscles.
Apart from being highly nutritious, though, you’ll also be getting a tastier cup of coffee. That’s because adding a splash of warm milk to coffee can actually take away some of the bitter notes in coffee, letting other notes in the flavor profile shine. If you prefer black coffee, that’s fine, but if you enjoy a less bitter cup of coffee, adding some milk can really help.
And last but not least, you may prefer to drink coffee with milk if you’re prone to heartburn or acid reflux. Coffee is on the acidic side, so people prone to these conditions may find that it makes their symptoms more severe. Those with severe stomach acidity are better off avoiding coffee entirely, but those for whom it’s an occasional concern may consider adding milk to balance out the pH. Black coffee generally has a pH of around 5 (acidic), whereas milk has a pH of 6 (more neutral), so combining the two can slightly reduce the acidity.
To wrap up, we hope that this information was helpful. You now know that, despite popular belief, drinking your coffee with dairy is better for you than you think. If you'd like to read more about the health effects of coffee, we linked a few related articles:
H/T: RD, Health News