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Beer Improves Athletes Health, Study Says

Beer for Athletes

Leave it to the Germans to prove that beer does in fact improve athletes health – non-alcoholic beer that is.

A new study of 277 athletes participating in the 2009 Munich Marathon has found that regular consumption of non-alcoholic wheat beer significantly reduced inflammation and infection risk post-marathon.

The data was gathered part of the “Be-MaGIC” study which stands for beer, marathons, genetics, inflammation and the cardiovascular system. The researchers divided test participants into two groups. One group was instructed to drink 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic Erdinger wheat beer every day two weeks prior to and two weeks after a marathon. The placebo group drank an equal amount of a another beverage that looked and tasted identical to the beer.

Lead researcher Dr. Johnannes Scherr and his colleagues from the Department of Preventative and Rehabilitative Sports Medicine of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen found that after two weeks post-marathon the beer group had 20% less inflammation and a third of the amount of infections as the control group. Furthermore, of those in the beer group who did develop a cold their reported symptoms were milder and the duration of the infection shorter.

What is so great about beer?

The Erdinger beer was chosen for this study because not only is it popular among athletes but it has shown to be highly concentrated with polyphenols. These compounds are antioxidants found in almost all plants however, wine, beer, and dark chocolate have become most known for their high concentrations. Previous research on polyphenols have associated these compounds with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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In the case of athletes, the physical stress of a marathon has been proven to increase the amount inflammation as measured by leukocytes (white blood cells) circulating in the blood stream. When inflammation is increased, the immune system is diminished, making the individual more susceptible to infections.

"The potential for foods containing polyphenols to have a positive effect on athletes' health has already been suggested in several articles,” explained Scherr. “Nevertheless we were ourselves sometimes surprised at how clearly evident this was in the results. We now have scientific confirmation of those assumptions for this test beverage, with its particular combination of polyphenols, vitamins and minerals."

Polyphenols are not the only natural compound known to decrease inflammation. Other studies have shown strong evidence that omega 3 fatty-acids also have a similar affect. According to nutritional medicine and orthopedic expert Dr. Hector Lopez omega 3s, found in fish oils, nuts, avocados, among other foods is beneficial for athletes due to their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to decrease pain.

The “Be-MaGIC” study results were presented at the June 2011 American College of Sports (ACSM) conference in Denver and are expected to be published in the January 2012 edition of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise (MSSE).

Image Source: Morgue File
ACMS Conference
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Nutritional Medicine Physician Dr. Hector Lopez



For people who don't drink, what are some other food sources of polyphenols?