Staying healthy post-marathon: Study supports Wellmune beverage for immune benefits after intense exercise

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / ZamoraA
© Getty Images / ZamoraA
Marathon runners consuming a beverage formulated with immune ingredient Wellmune saw a 19% reduction in the severity of upper respiratory tract infection (URTIs), compared to the placebo group, says a new study.

Data published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements​ also indicated that runners missed fewer post-race workouts because of URTI and had a 10% decrease in total symptomatic days when they consumed the beverage with the beta-glucan-based ingredient for 45 days before and after a marathon, compared to the control group.

“To the best of our knowledge, this randomized, controlled study is the first report of the effect of dispersible yeast beta-glucan incorporated into a pasteurized beverage on URTI in marathon runners,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Eunice Mah, PhD, from Biofortis, Mérieux Nutrisciences​.

“Study results indicate that dispersible yeast beta-glucan beverage consumption prior to and after a marathon decreased the number of symptomatic URTI days and severity of URTI symptoms, without affecting duration and number of URTI episodes.”

The ingredient

Wellmune​ is a beta-glucan based ingredient derived from the cell walls of a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that ‘primes’ the innate immune system - the body’s first line of defense against invasion by bacteria and viruses.

Data indicates that fragments of Wellmune digested and released by macrophages bind to the CR3 receptor sites on neutrophils, priming these cells for disease-fighting activity without over-boosting the immune system.

To produce it, Kerry removes the mannans, proteins and lipids from a proprietary strain of yeast to produce a highly purified beta 1,3/1,6 glucan (which should be distinguished from cholesterol-busting oat beta glucan, which has a different molecular structure: 1,3/1,4).

Commenting on the new study’s results, Donald Cox, PhD, Director of R&D for Wellmune at Kerry, stated: “The encouraging results of this new study provide us a greater understanding of Wellmune’s ability to help strengthen the immune system when consuming the ingredient through a beverage product.

“The robust body of research around Wellmune expands across various life stages, lifestyles and product formats, and this study builds upon Wellmune’s proven immune health benefits.”

Study details

Runner © Getty Images ChiccoDodiFC
The study is said to be the first RCT to investigate the effect of dispersible yeast beta-glucan incorporated into a pasteurized beverage on URTI in marathon runners. Image © Getty Images / ChiccoDodiFC

The study, conducted by scientists at Biofortis, included 357 runners of the 2017 Austin Marathon. Participants of the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled parallel study were randomly assigned to receive a ready-to-drink dairy-based beverage (250 mL/day) containing 250 mg of Wellmune (n = 132) or a macronutrient and calorie-matched dairy beverage control (250 mL) without Wellmune (n = 225) for 45 days before, the day of, and 45 days after the race. URTI occurrence and severity were evaluated using the validated Jackson Index and confirmed by the study physician.

The data showed that, while no significant differences were found between the groups for average duration and number of URTI episodes, a significant reduction in URTI symptomatic days was reported for the Wellmune group versus placebo (3.4 vs 3.8, respectively).

In addition, the total URTI severity in the beta-glucan group was significantly lower when compared to control (4.5 vs 5.6, respectively), with lower severity ratings reported for Wellmune for nasal discharge and sore throat.

The scientists also reported a significant reduction in the average missed post-marathon workout days due to URTI for the beta-glucan group.

“[T]he consumption by marathon runners of a dairy-based beverage containing dispersible yeast beta-glucan decreased severity ratings for specific URTI symptoms and the number of missed days of postmarathon workout due to URTI without affecting duration and number of URTI episodes,”​ wrote Mah and her co-workers.

“The results demonstrate that dispersible yeast beta-glucan, incorporated into a food matrix, confers beneficial effects on exercise-induced URTI in marathon runners.”

Other running benefits

The study adds to findings from previous clinical research with marathon runners that found that Wellmune may increase vigor by 22% and reduce fatigue by 48%. Another study found that marathon runners taking Wellmune for four weeks experienced a 40% reduction in upper respiratory tract infection symptoms.

“Combined with previous research on Wellmune, this new study further demonstrates the commitment to our clinical research program and underscores Kerry’s dedication to providing functional ingredients that are clinically supported, proven efficacious, and can easily be incorporated across a range of innovative food, beverage and supplement product applications,”​ added Dr Cox.

Source: Journal of Dietary Supplements
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1080/19390211.2018.1495676
“Beverage Containing Dispersible Yeast β-Glucan Decreases Cold/Flu Symptomatic Days After Intense Exercise: A Randomized Controlled Trial”
Authors: E. Mah et al.

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