The supplement used in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled contained 150 mg of Cuvitus, a proprietary extract of Gherkin (Cucumis sativus L.), developed by Swiss company Naturelea, SA, distributed and manufactured in the US by XSTO Solutions. Both companies financially supported the study.
“This early stage study of Gherkin extract in exercising individuals pointed to an effect on inflammatory cytokines as well as exercise performance,” the researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences.
"The results allow us to learn about a natural product that can be further evaluated and used as a means to support the immune system for an athlete when under times of stress (like multiple days in a arrow of games), as well as support healthy inflammation (anti-inflammation) as a result of that exercise and life-stress," said Dr. Douglas Kalman, one of the researchers in the study.
Dr. Kalman is the Director of Nutrition Research at QPS, an independent international clinical research organization. The team also included researchers from Central Michigan University and Substantiation Sciences, a consultancy in Florida.
"An ill or sick athlete is not a good one, so finding means to support athletic recovery and keep active individuals healthy, is important on an individual level, which may translate to teams too," he added.
The study was conducted in the latter part of 2016 and data was crunched around March 2017. It was presented as a poster last June at the 14th Annual Conference and Expo of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Twenty-four healthy male participants were recruited. The average age was 42 years, and the mean Body Mass Index (BMI) was 30. They were randomly assigned to one of two test groups, one ingesting the Cuvitus capsules and the other a placebo.
They took one capsule in the morning and one more in the evening for six days before the first exercise session. Participants were encouraged to maintain their daily routines.
In the second and third clinical visits, researchers monitored the participants using Visual Analog Scales for pain and discomfort pre-exercise and pre-supplementation blood collection for markers TNF-alpha, IL-6, IL-10, IL-1 and beta.
The Visual Analog Scale was performed after participants have performed a uniform exercise routine.
“The gherkin group significantly improved exercise performance and ability to maintain output, which also strongly trended for significance over placebo,” the researchers reported.
This was measured by the participants’ ability to maintain exercise performance over multiple sets.
Looking at blood samples, the Gherkin group experienced significant changes with respect to TNF-alpha, an inflammatory cytokine that helps regulate immune cells.
The researchers reported that differences between the groups trended strongly for significance favoring the gherkin extract group for improved and enhanced recovery of the IL-6 cytokine.
According to Kalman, these results lend "credence to a whole host of phytonutrient activity within this gherkin extract," and that it is an "exciting novel agent that may just prove out to be useful, not only for the hard working and training athlete, but the individual who also lives a stressful life and is looking to reduce 'internal' inflammation for better health."
What's next? 'Looking at physiological changes and impacts over time'
A limitation of the study was that it only observed acute delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—within hours of completing the exercise test sessions. Typical days of DOMS are 24 to 96 hours, with most 48 to 72 hours after exercise intervention.
“This shorter measurement period may not have allowed enough time after the exercise intervention to determine if the gherkin extract had any effect over placebo on perceived delayed onset muscle soreness,” the researchers wrote.
Kalman added: "As the study was acute in nature, I would like to see future studies measure out some of the physiological changes and impacts along with psychometric changes over time, versus just the few hours after stressful exercise. I would like to see the next study include up to 72 hours post-exercise evaluations of delayed onset muscle soreness, I would also like to see how the antioxidant status of the blood changes (if it does), as well as reconfirm the immunosupportive and anti-inflammatory impacts of the product."
Source: Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences
Published online, J Nutr Health Sci 5(1): 104
Randomized Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial Evaluating the Effects of an Investigational Study Product on Exercise Induced Muscle Soreness, Markers of Inflammation, Muscle Damage and Exercise Performance in Healthy Males
Authors: Kalman D., Knight K., Sperry J., Smith M., Holms C., Hewlings S.