Heart Health Articles

Fighting Distance Runner Ailments With Non-Alcoholic Beer

March 20, 2017

Vintage posters adorn the walls of the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland with the slogan, "Guinness is good for you." Though not the famous black draught, a liter of non-alcoholic beer is good for reducing inflammation and upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) in marathoners, according to research being presented today at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine®.

Strenuous exercise can significantly increase the incidence of URTI caused by transient immune dysfunction. Some foods and beverages, such as non-alcoholic beer, have strong antioxidant, anti-pathogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. To determine whether non-alcoholic beer would attenuate inflammation and URTI incidence, Johannes Scherr, M.D., and colleagues studied marathoners participating in the Munich Marathon.

The research team evaluated 277 healthy male runners (average age 49) for three weeks before and two weeks after the Munich Marathon and randomly assigned each participant 1 to 1.5 liters per day of non-alcoholic beer (Erdinger Alkoholfrei) or a placebo beverage. The team collected blood samples at four weeks and one week before the race, as well as immediately, 24 hours and 72 hours after the marathon and analyzed inflammation measures (Interleukin 6 or IL-6 and total blood leukocyte counts).

"Our findings show that consuming a modest amount of non-alcoholic beer for three weeks before and two weeks after a marathon indeed reduces post-race inflammation and the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections," said Scherr, the lead author of this study "The naturally occurring polypenolic compounds of non-alcoholic beer are responsible for fighting these common ailments in distance runners."

The study showed that change in IL-6 was significantly reduced in the group consuming non-alcoholic beer. Total blood leukocyte counts were also reduced in the non-alcoholic beer test participants by approximately 20 percent immediately and 24 hours post-race. Incidence of URTI was 3.25-fold lower in non-alcoholic beer subjects compared to the placebo group during the two-week post-marathon period.

American College of Sports Medicine