Sunday, June 26, 2011

Non-alcoholic beer boosts health of athletes?

Another post from Lifehacker caught my attention this week. While many of us indulge in a beer or two after a good long run, new research suggests that it might actually be healthy to do so. I could not get the full article, but the abstract provides the following info. 277 healthy male marathon runners were given 1 liter of non-alcoholic wheat beer or a placebo drink daily for 3 weeks prior and 2 weeks after the Munich Marathon. Beer drinkers had lower inflammatory markers in blood tests and were three times less likely to get a upper respiratory tract infection (ie: the common cold).

Now, the blood tests you have to take with a grain of salt, since we do not really know if those lab tests of inflammation are good or bad in runners. The context of inflammation is different in a post-marathon runner than it is for a sedentary couch-dweller. It is harder to argue with a more concrete outcome like infections, but even here, it depends on how you define a cold, which the abstract does not do. Furthermore, they say that this study is placebo controlled, but how do you placebo-ify a beer? You have to ask because, if the subjects (the runners) know that they are being given the non-beer drink, and they get any idea of what the outcome is (self-reported symptoms of a cold), it could easily skew the results, even unconsciously. That, and the press release of the study conspicuously mention the brand of beer used, and the journal does not mention who the sponsor of the study was. The press release says this brand was chosen for "its popularity with marathoners" (anyone from Germany care to comment?)

Anyway, an intriguing thought, and another reason to feel okay about having a beer! (Non-alcoholic, of course...)


  1. Hmmm... Mayo Clinic ( seems to suggest that alcohol consumption *in moderation* may have heart health benefits (moderation being one daily glass of ~12 Oz. beer). Under such moderate intake conditions it would be interesting to see a study result comparing health results among active adult runners between those who drank alcohol free versus regular beer.

  2. I agree, in this case the researchers were focused on the magic of antioxidants, but the alcohol content would be an interesting study.