Immunity and performance: Bridging the gap between pro athletes and the rest of us

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Immune system, Upper respiratory tract infection

Studies showing the benefits of immune boosting ingredients in marathon runners and soccer players can help show the less serious athlete how to balance the immune system, says Biothera's VP of R&D.

Don Cox, PhD, senior VP of research and development at Biothera, explained to NutraIngredients-USA.com that it is well known that heavy exercise suppresses the immune system and increases the risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).

Indeed, heavy exercise is a physical stressor that has been shown to reduce key immune system components such as natural killer cells, neutrophils, T and B cells. The potential of an immune balancing ingredient for athletes is therefore evident.

At next month’s Nutracon​ in Anaheim, Dr Cox will present on the topic, “Maintaining immune health leads to improved performance” ​as part of the Energy, performance and weight track”.

Focusing on the company’s Wellmune WGP ingredient, which is derived from the cell walls of a proprietary strain of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae​) via a patented manufacturing process, Dr Cox will talk about how balancing the immune system during exercise can keep people healthy and maintain performance.

Good data exists for the marathon runners, said Dr Cox, with data published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine​ (2009, Vol. 8, pp.509-515) showing that supplementation with Wellmune after completion of a marathon was associated with fewer symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), “better overall health […] and increased vigor”​.

Generalizations

Dr Cox also talked about performance in response to psychological stress. Results of a study presented at the end of 2010 at the Society for Immunology conference in Liverpool, UK, showed that the Wellmune ingredient may reduce the duration of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms in a healthy population (medical students).

Led by Richard Fuller, MD, of The Dove Clinic for Integrated Medicine, the researchers reported that daily supplements of the beta-glucan ingredient was associated with 43 fewer days of symptoms, compared with their classmates receiving placebo.

Such results, said Cox, were consistent with other clinical studies that demonstrate the protective effects of Biothera’s ingredient for individuals during periods of high physical or psychological stress.

Strength of the market

Once the domain of the overly muscular, the sports nutrition market is now dominated by the non-sporty consumer. The most recent figures available value the global sports nutrition market at a massive US$4.7bn, with North America ($3.2bn) and western Europe ($713.6m) dominating the podium.

Dr Don Cox’s presentation forms part of Nutracon’s Energy, performance and weight​ track. Nutracon takes place from March 9-10, 2011. For more information and to register: www.nutraconference.com

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