Is there a link between exercise, exhaustion and probiotics? Kent State researchers aim to find out

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Paul Bradbury
Getty Images / Paul Bradbury

Related tags: Gut flora

Can probiotics help combat heat-caused complications during exercise? Researchers from Kent State University aim to find out, with the help of a grant from i-Health Inc. and DSM Nutrition.

The award, totaling $248,000, will help researchers at the university’s Exercise Physiology Laboratories and the Psychology Department examine whether supplementation with a probiotic-containing beverage is protective during exercise in a hot environment through a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

“Our primary interest in this project has come from examining the psychological, inflammatory and performance effects of heat exposure and exercise, with and without probiotic supplementation,”​ Adam Jajtner, PhD, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at Kent State University, told NutraIngredients-USA.

He will lead the trial together with Ellen Glickman, PhD, a professor of health sciences who is a recognized expert in the area of environmental physiology.

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Kent State University's Adam Jajtner, Ph.D., and Ellen Glickman, Ph.D., stand next to an exercise bike in their research lab. The two exercise science/physiology faculty members will lead a study related to the use of probiotics and physical exercise. Photo: Kent State University

Adding to the body of science on probiotics and exercise

Benefits of probiotic supplementation to physically active individuals has increasingly been a subject of interest to researchers, though the body of literature is still relatively small.

A meta-analysis published in 2016​, conducted by researchers in Spain, looked at 28 studies published since 2007, suggested that how the gut microbiota ferment complex dietary polysaccharides to be used as energy sources may “improve endurance performance by maintaining glycemia over time.”

As the Kent State University researchers are currently working on the study’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) application—a step where a committee applies research ethics by reviewing methods proposed for research to ensure they are ethical—they declined to comment further on the proposed study design, such as what probiotic strain will be administered or what exercise protocol will participants go through.

But they did share what sort of outcomes they will be looking for. "Primary outcomes include multiple indices of physical performance during heat stress and recovery, including endurance, power and strength,"​ Dr. Glickman said.

"Secondary outcomes include psychological status and cognitive function during these same periods. A subset of individuals will provide biological samples to clarify possible mechanisms, including inflammatory markers," ​she added.

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