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Polyphenols protect jocks

New research suggests that polyphenols reduce the period of weakened immunity that normally follows intense exercise.

Marathoners may want to skip the carb-loading pre-race spaghetti feast and gorge on blueberries instead, perhaps with a refreshing green tea chaser. That way, they can accept congratulatory hugs at the finish line and not worry that they’ll come down with a post-race crud instead of sailing off in a post-race high.

Recent research suggests that polyphenols, like those in blueberries and green tea, may boost athletes’ immune systems after intense exercise – a time when they’re usually compromised.

Scientists at the North Carolina Research Campus studied a group of long-distance runners for 17 days. One group took 40 grams per day of a blueberry-green tea-polyphenol soy protein complex – the equivalent to eating three cups of blueberries and a cup and a half of green tea per day. The other group took a placebo. At day 14, the subjects began three days of intense running for two and half hours. Researchers tested their blood 14 days before and after the trial and immediately and 14 hours after the third day of heavy running.

Normally, athletes experience depressed immune systems for up to 72 hours after competing in a race like a marathon. The runners in the study who took the polyphenol-laced cocktail did not show signs of this. In fact, their blood serum showed dramatically reduced viral replication when tested. “These results indicate that polyphenol complexes containing blueberry and green tea have the potential to protect athletes from virus infections following rigorous exercise,” according to the article’s abstract.

The research appeared in the journal Phytotherapy Research and was noted on This is just the latest research supporting the health-promoting powers of polyphenols. A meta-analysis published last year in a special Polyphenols and Human Health issue of the journal Nutrients touted their potential for protecting the heart and fighting the symptoms of aging.

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