Health

 

Michael Greger MD

Michael Greger MD

Posted September 2, 2014

Published in Health

  • digg
  • Delicious
  • Furl
  • reddit
  • blinklist
  • Technorati
  • stumbleupon

Why Athletes Should Eat Nutritional Yeast

Read More: aging, children, cognition, common cold, exercise, fatigue, fiber, immune function, mood, nutritional yeast, respiratory infections, stress, yeast

Get VegSource Alerts Get VegSource Alerts

First Name

Email

Email This Story to a Friend




NF-Sep2 Why Athletes Should Eat More Nutritional Yeast.jpg

Does powering up at the gym also power up our immune system? Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immunity and decreases illness rates. According to an article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, "the most important finding that has emerged from exercise immunology studies during the past two decades is that positive changes in our immune system take place during each bout of moderate physical activity. Over time, this translates to fewer days of sickness from, for example, the common cold and other upper respiratory infections." The best available evidence suggests a 25% to 50% reduction in sick days. Name one drug or supplement that can do that!

And it doesn't take much. Let kids run around for just six minutes and we can boost the number of immune cells circulating in their blood stream by more than a third.

At the other end of the life cycle, exercise may help prevent age-related immune decline. Sedentary women in their 70s may have a 50% chance of getting an upper respiratory illness during the fall season every year. But with just a half-hour walk each day, their risk is down to 20%. The runners in the group got it under 10%-five times better!

While regular physical activity improves immune function and lowers upper respiratory infection risk, sustained and intense exertion may have the opposite effect, forming a so-called J-shaped curve relationship (you can see this curve diagram in my video, Preserving Immune Function in Athletes With Nutritional Yeast). As we go from inactive to active, our infection risk declines. But if we overtrain, as hardcore athletes do, we may actually put excessive stress on our body and increase our risk of infection. Then we could lose training days, and our performance could suffer.

So how can we fight off sickness while continuing to train? Traditional sports medicine doesn't appear to offer much help, advising athletes to basically not pick their nose, avoid sick people, and get a flu shot.

But there there may be a natural solution. A new study found that we can better maintain our level of circulating white blood cells after exhaustive exercise by consuming a special type of fiber found in baker's, brewer's, and nutritional yeast. (Brewer's yeast is bitter, but nutritional yeast has a nice cheesy flavor. I use it mostly to sprinkle on popcorn). Normally, two hours after hardcore cycling, there can be a dip in circulating white blood cells, one of our first lines of defense. However, after strenuous exercise, those who ate the equivalent of less than three quarters of a teaspoon a day of nutritional yeast ended up even better than when they started. But does this increase in immune cells translate into fewer illnesses? Researchers studied competitors in the Carlsbad Marathon to find out.

In the weeks following the race, a significant number of runners began experiencing upper respiratory tract infection symptoms while taking a placebo. Those runners who were taking the equivalent of a daily spoonful of nutritional yeast cut their rates of infection in half. And they felt better, too. They were asked how they felt on a scale of one to ten. People taking the sugar pills were okay, down around four or five, but those taking identical looking capsules of the fiber found in nutritional yeast were up at six or seven. Elite athletes tend to normally experience deterioration in mood state during intense training periods, and before and after a marathon race. Sprinkle on a little spoonful of nutritional yeast, though, and you may feel less tense, less fatigued, less confused, even less angry (and my personal favorite, they had significantly "increased vigor").

Don't have time to exercise? Yes you do! See Standing Up for Your Health.

Find more on the benefits of exercise in:

What else can we do to preserve our immune function? See:

Nutritional yeast that's fortified can also be a convenient source of vitamin B12 (Safest Source of B12).

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Jeff Gunn / Flickr

FACEBOOK COMMENTS:


1 Comment | Leave a comment

user-pic

The most frustrating thing about nutritional yeast is if you get the delicious KAL's Nutritional Yeast fortified with B12, you also get a huge amount (310%) of folic acid added!

If you purchase the unfortified, there is no B12 and I was buying nutritional yeast for the B12.

I have just purchased sublingual B12, and will use the unfortified nutritional yeast for the immune boost I just learned about in your article, because I eat a ton of carbs which are all fortified with folic acid and I am trying not to get too much of that.

Leave a comment