Beta-glucan ingredient may boost immune function for marathon runners

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Supplementation reduced the number of days with symptoms of cold and 'flu
Supplementation reduced the number of days with symptoms of cold and 'flu

Related tags: Immune system

Daily supplements of the beta-glucan based ingredient Wellmune WGP may reduce the number of days with upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptom, says a new study from the University of Houston.

Two different forms of the beta-glucan ingredient - Wellmune soluble and Wellmune dispersible – were associated with 45% and 34% reductions in the number of days with URTI symptoms in the weeks for 182 participants of the 2011 Austin Livestrong Marathon.

“Wellmune is the first ingredient we’ve tested that showed measurable improvements in key immune system biomarkers,”​ said study leader Brian McFarlin, PhD, from the University of Houston.

The study’s results were presented at the American College of Sports Medicine 59th annual meeting. Biothera, the company behind the Wellmune WGP ingredient, sponsored the study.

“The study confirms previous clinical research showing that Wellmune WGP’s support of the immune system has real health benefits for individuals under physical stress,”​ said Rich Mueller, CEO of Biothera.  “This applies to both elite athletes as well as recreational athletes.”

David Walsh, VP Communications for Biothera, told NutraIngredients-USA that the research will be published in a peer-reviewed journal before the end of the year. A manuscript is in development. NutraIngredients-USA has not seen the full data.

The ingredient

Wellmune WGP, derived from the cell walls of a proprietary strain of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae​) via a patented manufacturing process, is a natural carbohydrate that activates key immune cells.

Designed for use with foods, beverages and premium supplements, Wellmune can be used in a large number of subcategories in each segment. For example, beverages example, may include dairy, waters, teas, juices, sports drinks and other functional beverages, as well as powdered beverages.

The ingredient’s potential for sports nutrition was supported by another recent trial​, published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Nutrition​. Daily supplements of the beta-glucan based ingredient were associated with an increase in levels of total and pro-inflammatory white blood cells (monocytes) after exercise.

New data

The University of Houston researchers recruited 182 marathon runners and randomly assigned them to receive 250 mg/day of Wellmune soluble, Wellmune dispersible, or a rice flour placebo for four weeks following the marathon.

“Marathon running places a profound stress on one’s body. Such stress manifests itself in the form of muscle soreness, fatigue, and a weakened immune system,”​ explained the researchers in their conference abstract. “It is common for marathon runners to develop an upper respiratory tract infection in the days and weeks following completion of a marathon.”

Results showed that general health problems and URTI symptoms decreased in athletes in the Wellmune groups, compared to placebo.

“Based on previous studies from our lab and others, it is reasonable to speculate that the improvements associated with [Wellmune WGP] were likely due to alterations in monocytes, plasma cytokines, and improved mucosal immunity,” ​said the researchers.

Source: Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine
Vol. 44 No. 5 Supplement S181
1376 Board #157
“Baker’S Yeast Beta Glucan Supplementation Reduces The Number Of Cold/Flu Symptomatic Days After Completing A Marathon”
Authors: J.A. Navalta, K.C. Carpenter, W.L. Breslin, T. Davidson, B.K. McFarlin, 

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