Drinking beer is good for marathon runners

Monday, 13 June 2011 11:30 AM

Scientists have discovered drinking beer before running a marathon helps boost their recovery and strengthen their immune system.

But, unfortunately for those who like a tipple, it’s a non-alcoholic wheat beer which has been found to have all the health benefits.

Researchers from the Department of Preventative and Rehabilitative Sports Medicine of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen at Klinikum rechts der Isar, Germany, found that drinking non-alcoholic weissbier, or wheat beer, had a positive effect on athletes' health.

The study focused on the health risks for marathon runners and the potential positive effects of polyphenols. These aromatic compounds occur naturally in plants as pigment, flavour, or tannins, many of which have been credited with health-promoting and cancer-preventative properties.

The study looked at 277 runners three weeks before and two weeks after the 2009 Munich Marathon.

Non-alcoholic Erdinger wheat beer was selected as the test beverage, chosen for its rich and varied polyphenol content and its popularity with marathoners and tri-athletes.

One group of runners drank up to 1.5 litres of the wheat beer every day, while a second group consumed an equal amount of an otherwise indistinguishable placebo beverage that contained no polyphenols and was especially produced for the study.

The study found that after running a marathon race, athletes experience intensified inflammatory reactions, their immune systems are thrown off balance and they are much more likely to suffer from upper respiratory infections.

This heightened susceptibility to illness following strenuous sport activity has been identified as an "open window."

However, it was shown that non-alcoholic wheat beer containing polyphenols has a positive, health promoting effect on the human body, helping to reduce inflammation and lower the chances of infection.

Lead researcher, Dr Johannes Scherr, who also serves as physician to the German National Ski Team, said: “The analysis of the leukocytes, or white blood cells, which constitute one of the most important parameters for inflammation, revealed values in the active group that were 20 per cent lower than in the placebo group."

The study also found that wheat beer strengthened the immune system of runners which had been weakened by physical stress, as well as reducing the risk of catching a cold by a third.

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