Probiotics benefit runners

Planning on running in a marathon this year? As well as having the right shoes and a positive attitude, you might also want to consider adding probiotic supplements to your diet. Strenuous training can affect the immune system and make athletes more vulnerable to coughs and colds, but an Australian study has shown that taking probiotic supplements, which contain ‘friendly bacteria’, more than halves the days that runners show symptoms and also reduces both the number and length of infections they experienced.

The study focused on 20 top-level endurance runners during their intensive winter training programme, when colds and other respiratory infections can be disruptive. The athletes were given a two month-long course of pills containing the bacterium Lactobacillus fermentum and then a dummy placebo for the same length of time. During the ‘probiotic phase’ the number of infections and days lost through illness was dramatically reduced. It may not have quite the same effect on people who are less active, but if you are given to sprinting round the living room you never know it might stop you catching a last-ditch winter cold.