Polysaccharide supplement may give marathon runners an immune boost

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers studied the effects of a polysaccharide supplement on the immune system of 41 male runners at the Barcelona Marathon. Getty Images / Jordi Delgado
Researchers studied the effects of a polysaccharide supplement on the immune system of 41 male runners at the Barcelona Marathon. Getty Images / Jordi Delgado

Related tags Immune health Immune response Polysaccharide Carbohydrate carbohydrates Sports nutrition recovery

Among marathon runners, researchers in Spain found a link between consumption of a polysaccharide-based supplement and improvements of biomarkers associated with the body’s immune response.

In the study, the researchers observed significant changes in salivary biomarkers of immune function in healthy, non-elite athletes before and after a marathon run on asphalt surfaces, and the participants who ingested the polysaccharide supplement had changes that may have a positive effect on immunity.

“Salivary secretory immunoglobulin A [or sIgA] is a key component of innate immunity and provides a first line of defense against pathogens at mucosal surfaces,”​ the researchers explained.

Among the study participants, those who did not take the supplement had decreased sIgA after the marathon race, while participants who ingested the supplement did not show a significant decrease.

Their hypothesis was that supplementation of carbohydrate, specifically glycans—a generic term for any sugar or assembly of sugars—before strenuous physical activity enhances immune function and balances pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory proteins.

“These findings suggested that [glycans] may have a positive effect on immune response after a strenuous exercise,”​ they wrote in their report​, published last week in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

The researchers investigated a commercially available polysaccharide-based supplement called Advanced Ambrotose​, developed and sold by the multinational multi-level marketing company Mannatech Inc.

They reported that, while the Texas-based Mannatech provided an “unconditional product grant,” ​they had no financial interests in the results of the study and independently collected, analyzed, and interpreted the data.

Study details

The investigated supplement Advanced Ambrotose Complex Powder contains multiple plant sugars (hence, polysaccharide) including glycans. It is also includes mannose, galactose, fucose, xylose, glucose, n-acetyl-glucosamine, n-acetyl-neuraminic acid, and n-acetyl-galactosamine.  The supplement is marketed by the network marketing company Mannatech.

The studied supplement was Mannatech Inc.'s Advanced Ambrotose Complex Powder.

The study was part of the SUMMIT Project (Health in Ultra-Marathons and their Limits), which has an objective of evaluating the behavior of certain clinical parameters in different racers.

In this present study, 41 male non-elite runners of the Barcelona Marathon 2016 participated in the study. Among all of the race’s participants, these 41 men were selected for being homogenous in age, kept the same or similar weekly training hours, had the same number of years of training, and did not differ too much in weight and height.

Researchers randomized them into two groups: 20 participants received the supplement prior to the race, while 21 participants did not. The supplement was taken daily at a dose of 8 g for 15 days before the marathon.

Body measurements, blood, and saliva samples were collected 48 hours before the marathon and two days after the end of the race.

The homogeneity of the study sample meant that researchers “cannot exclude the effect of glycans in salivary immunity based on sex.”

“More work is needed to clarify the mechanism that may explain these important results,” ​they added.

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Published online,
Effects of a polysaccharide-based multi-ingredient supplement on salivary immunity in non-elite marathon runners
Authors: Emma Rocca, et al.

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