Stanford University researchers have found that people who take ibuprofen while long-distance running doubles their risk of acute kidney injury.
Ibuprofen is used as a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, and is marketed under brand names such as the popular Advil.
The study, conducted by multiple Universities including the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of Colorado, the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington University in St. Louis, and Harvard University worked on the study, that was published July 5 in the Emergency Medicine Journal.
During their study, the researchers found that almost 75 percent of ultramarathoners, endurance runners, or very long distance runners, use ibuprofen while running to alleviate pain.
“Running these races tends to hurt,” Dr. Grant Lipman, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Stanford and director of Stanford Wilderness Medicine, said in a press release. “In medical school, we were all taught to be careful of ibuprofen because it decreases blood flow to the kidneys.”
There were 89 participants who completed the trial; these participants were ultramarathoners running a series of Ultramarathons. The study tested the use of ibuprofen in the ultramarathoners by treating them with either ibuprofen or a placebo during one of their 50-mile stretches of four different seven-day, 155-mile ultramarathons.
Runners were forbidden from taking ibuprofen for at least 12 hours before their 50-mile stretch of races, that took place in Sri Lanka, Ecuador, China, and Chile.
“The morning of this 50-mile section of the race, the participants came to the medical tent,” Lipman said. “We weighed them and gave them a baggie and said to take these pills every four hours. They were given either 400 milligrams of ibuprofen or sugar pills. Nobody knew which. And instructed to take one every four hours. And they ran off.”
Researchers tested their weight, electrolyte levels as well as their renal function between 12 to 36 hours later depending on the runner’s speed.
The results found that 39 of the 89 participants had some form of acute kidney injury at the conclusion of the 50-mile stretch, which is an 18 percent higher rate of kidney injury among those who were given ibuprofen compared to those were given the placebo.
“Basically, for every five runners who took ibuprofen, there was one additional case of acute kidney injury. That’s a pretty high rate,” Lipman said.
Acute kidney damage or injury is common in marathon runners due to the high incidence of dehydration that causes reduced blood flow and rhabdomyolysis, or the breakdown of muscle tissue that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the blood.
So, if you are a long-distance runner, stick with aspirin, it is much safer for your kidneys.