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STUDY: Yeast Beta glucan for athletes and the immune system.

A study of the effects of baker’s yeast beta glucan on the immune system of athletes. The results are promising and show many benefits of baker’s yeast beta glucan for athletes.

Why is a strong immune system vital for athletes?

The muscles, blood circulation and respiratory of athletes undergo a lot of stress. They are therefore very aware of the importance of a balanced intake of nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals), not only for a good physical performance but also for a good recovery after exercise. Most athletes use sports dietary products and nutritional supplements to make sure for sufficient supply of nutrients.

Athletes are always looking for those extra, little things that can help them improve their performances. They also know how damaging it can be when training schedules are disrupted by for example a seasonal flu. They know the importance of a strong immune system as well.

Cancelled workouts and interrupted training schedules are frustrating and demotivating for everyone with an active lifestyle. Disruption of a planned training program can mean the end of a season for an athlete or it could make previous efforts all for nothing. Symptoms in the upper respiratory tracts could be treated with moderate activity (even though the benefit of the training is suboptimal and it will take more time for the body to recover), but when the symptoms are systemic or located in the lower respiratory tracts, physical exercise is not recommended and then the body needs enough time to recover before the training is resumed.

(1) In other words, avoiding bacterial and viral infections is essential to be capable of performing the training that is needed to develop and improve the sporting achievements.Intensive training leads to temporary changes in the immune system that makes you more vulnerable for viral and bacterial infections. Although the mechanisms behind this are very complex and not fully understood yet, it is clear that some reactions take place in the respiratory tracts, while others are systemic. The functioning of the phagocytes in the respiratory tracts are significant suppressed and the secretion of immunoglobine A (IgA) in the nasal mucosa is reduced. (2) IgA is an antibody that plays a crucial part in the defense of infections in the mucous membranes. In addition, the ciliary are affected by intensive exercise, whereby the respiratory tracts are more exposed. (3) Strenuous training triggers systemic changes, like elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels in the blood, which causes changes in the white blood cells count. (4) Furthermore, it also seems to decrease the ability of the macrophages to kill intruding pathogens and it lowers the cytotoxic activity of natural killer cells. (5) Altogether these changes can lead to a weakened immune system. (6)

Yeast beta glucan

Beta glucan of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a natural bioactive component, which helps to make the immune system of athletes less vulnerable during periods of intensive training. In its purified form, this beta glucan helps the innate immune system and prepares to react to infections quick and adequate.
Yeast beta-1,3/1,6-glucans are studied by independent research groups worldwide, as well as by commercial companies. It is recognized as safe and effective. Multiple clinical, in-vitro and animal studies have been carried out and that has given some interesting insights in the effects of beta glucan to the immune system. Some of these studies have showed that people who are physically strained or who are sensitive for infections in the upper respiratory tracts have a lower change of being infected after taking yeast beta glucan. (7) This indicates that yeast beta glucan enhances the immune system for these groups.

Studies with athletes showed that the change of getting infections in the upper respiratory tracts after exhaustive efforts is reduced by taking yeast beta glucan. (8) This also suggests that using yeast beta glucan makes athletes more resistant to infections. Other studies pointed out that using yeast beta glucan causes more secretion of IgA with athletes.(9) This implies that taking beta glucan ensures an enhanced immunity of the mucous membranes.

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(1): Hosey, R. G. & Rodenberg, R. E., 2005. Training room management of medical conditions: infectious diseases. Clin Sports Med 24(3): 477-506. vii.
(2): Steerenberg, P. A., van Asperen, I. A., van Nieuw Amerongen, A., Biewenga, A., Mol, D. and Medema, G. J., 1997. Salivary levels of immunoglobulin A in triathletes. Eur J Oral Sci 105(4): 305-309.
(3): Muns, G., Singer, P., Wolf, F. and Rubinstein, I., 1995. Impaired nasal mucociliary clearance in long-distance runners. Int J Sports Med 16(4): 209-213
(4): Nieman, D. C., 1997. Immune response to heavy exertion. J Appl Physiol (1985) 82(5): 1385-1394
(5): Nieman, D. C., 1997. Immune response to heavy exertion. J Appl Physiol (1985) 82(5): 1385-1394
(6): Nieman, D. C., 2000. Special feature for the Olympics: effects of exercise on the immune system: exercise effects on systemic immunity. Immunol Cell Biol 78(5): 496-501.
(7): Samuelsen, A. B., Schrezenmeir, J. and Knutsen, S. H., 2014. Effects of orally administered yeast-derived beta-glucans: a review. Mol Nutr Food Res 58(1): 183-193. (8): Talbott & Talbott, 2009
(9); McFarlin, B. K., Carpenter, K. C., Davidson, T. and McFarlin, M. A., 2013. Baker’s yeast beta glucan supplementation increases salivary IgA and decreases cold/flu symptomatic days after intense exercise. J Diet Suppl 10(3): 171-183.

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