Strenuous exercise, particularly multi-sport and ultra-endurance events, can produce gastrointestinal distress, which is related to changes and damage to the lining of the gut (the epithelium). This GI distress has been reported to be caused by increased production of endotoxins by bacteria in the gut, which provokes an immune response.
New data published in Nutrients indicated that 12 weeks of supplementation with a combination of probiotics, prebiotics and antioxidants may significantly reduce endotoxin levels pre- and post-triathlon, compared to placebo.
“The inclusion of an antioxidant strategy (e.g., alpha-lipoic acid/N-acetyl carnitine) may confer additive benefits via reductions in training-related endotoxin unit levels,” wrote researchers from Anglia Ruskin University, the University of Hertfordshire, and Cardiff Metropolitan University.
“Combined pro/prebiotic/antioxidant strategies may have important implications for individuals undertaking endurance training, particularly those more susceptible to GI symptoms.”
The UK-based scientists recruited 30 recreational athletes to participate in their randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. The participants were randomly assigned to receive placebo, a combination of prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (400 mg/day) plus four probiotic strains (a total of 30 billion CFUs per day of Lactobacillus acidophilus CUL-60; L. acidophillus CUL-21; Bifidobacterium bifidum CUL-20; and B. animalis subspecies lactis CUL-34), or the prebiotic+probiotic with antioxidants alpha-lipoic acid (200 mg/day) and N-acetyl carnitine (300 mg/day).
After 12 weeks of intervention, the participants competed in a long distance triathlon, which included a 3.8 km sea swim, 180 km road cycle course, and a 42.2 km marathon run.
Results showed that endotoxin levels were significantly reduced in the probiotic, prebiotic plus antioxidant group both pre-race and six days after the race, while reductions were only observed in the probiotic plus prebiotic group six days after the race. No changes in endotoxin levels were observed in the placebo group.
GI permeability (a sign of distress/damage) was observed to increase in the placebo group only
Race times were faster in both active groups, but these did not reach statistical significance compared with placebo, said the researchers.
“Collectively, these results support the contention that a multistrain pro/prebiotic intervention maintains tight junction stability, potentially through interference with phosphorylation processes,” wrote the researchers. “Although this supports previous findings, such strategies may only apply to chronic interventions, as recent research has demonstrated no impact of acute (7 days) probiotic use on endotoxin levels following endurance exercise at 60%VO2max under ambient or heat-stressed conditions.”
The study was funded by Biocare Ltd (UK).
Volume 8, Number 11, Page 733; doi:10.3390/nu8110733
“An Exploratory Investigation of Endotoxin Levels in Novice Long Distance Triathletes, and the Effects of a Multi-Strain Probiotic/Prebiotic, Antioxidant Intervention”
Authors: J.D. Roberts et al.