Latte and cappuccino drinkers may have a newfound reason to indulge in their favorite beverages, as a recent study hints at possible health benefits to drinking coffee paired with milk.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen recently published a study that investigated how polyphenols, such as those found in some fruits, vegetables, and coffee, behave when combined with amino acids, such as those found in meat and milk.

Polyphenols are a naturally occurring compound known to prevent oxidation and decay of healthy chemicals in the body. The health benefits of polyphenols include “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and antihypertensive properties,” according to a 2018 study on the preventive effects of coffee polyphenols conducted by researchers at Nihon University in Japan.

In the Copenhagen study, researchers explored that idea further. They observed artificial inflammation in three different groups of immune cells. One of these groups of cells received doses of polyphenols combined with an amino acid, one group of cells received only polyphenols, and a third group received neither.

Researchers documented that the immune cells treated with the amino acid-polyphenol combination appeared “twice as effective at fighting inflammation as the cells to which only polyphenols were added,” according to a press release from the University of Copenhagen.

“It is interesting to have now observed the anti-inflammatory effect in cell experiments,” said Associate Professor Andrew William, senior author of the study, in the press release.

“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,” he continued.

Eventually, the researchers hope to study the effect on humans.

Marianne Nissen Lund, the professor at the University of Copenhagen who headed the research, was also involved in a separate study to determine whether polyphenol molecules and amino acid molecules bind to each other when coffee and milk are combined. As it turns out, they do.

“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,” Lund speculated in the recent press release.

“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,” she continued.

Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, psoriasis, cancer, depression, renal disease, and obesity, according to research published in the National Library of Medicine in 2016.

The 2018 Nihon University study also indicated that higher consumption of coffee correlated with a lower risk of obesity and lower BMI, as well as decreased risk factors for obesity-related afflictions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.

In addition, a subsequent study published in the same journal in 2019 studying the relationship between coffee intake and obesity suggested that “higher coffee intake might be modestly associated with reduced adiposity (fat), especially in men.”

It remains to be seen whether the latest research on polyphenols and amino acids could lead to a breakthrough treatment for obesity, but it is one worth exploring further, as obesity remains an epidemic plaguing the nation.