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β-Glucan, Immune Function, and Upper Respiratory Tract Infections in Athletes

NIEMAN, DAVID C.1,2; HENSON, DRU A.1,2; McMAHON, MARY1,2; WRIEDEN, JENNA L.1,2; DAVIS, J. MARK3; MURPHY, E. ANGELA3; GROSS, SARAH J.1,2; MCANULTY, LISA S.1,2; DUMKE, CHARLES L.1,2

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 8 - pp 1463-1471
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817057c2
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

Purpose: This study investigated the effects of oat β-glucan (BG) supplementation on chronic resting immunity, exercise-induced changes in immune function, and self-reported upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) incidence in human endurance athletes.

Methods: Trained male cyclists were randomized to BG (N = 19) or placebo (P; N = 17) groups and under double-blind procedures received BG (5.6 g·d−1) or P beverage supplements for 2 wk before, during, and 1 d after a 3-d period in which subjects cycled for 3 h·d−1 at approximately 57% maximal watts. URTI symptoms were monitored during BG supplementation and for 2 wk afterward. Blood samples were collected before and after 2 wk of supplementation (both samples, 8:00 a.m.), immediately after the 3-h exercise bout on day 3 (6:00 p.m.), and 14 h after exercise (8:00 a.m.) and were assayed for natural killer cell activity (NKCA), polymorphonuclear respiratory burst activity (PMN-RBA), phytohemagglutinin-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation (PHA-LP), plasma interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-10, IL-1 receptor agonist (IL-1ra), and IL-8, and blood leukocyte IL-10, IL-8, and IL-1ra mRNA expression.

Results: Chronic resting levels and exercise-induced changes in NKCA, PMN-RBA, PHA-LP, plasma cytokines, and blood leukocyte cytokine mRNA did not differ significantly between BG and P groups. URTI incidence during the 2-wk postexercise period did not differ significantly between groups.

Conclusions: An 18-d period of BG versus P ingestion did not alter chronic resting or exercise-induced changes in immune function or URTI incidence in cyclists during the 2-wk period after an intensified exercise.

1Departments of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science and 2Biology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC; 3Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

Address for correspondence: David C. Nieman, DrPH, FACSM, Department of Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science, PO Box 32071, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608; E-mail: niemandc@appstate.edu.

Accepted for publication December 2007.

Submitted for publication February 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine