BLIS eyes sports nutrition category as RCT shows K12 probiotic may support athletes' immune health

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Ridofranz / Getty Images
© Ridofranz / Getty Images

Related tags Blis oral probiotic Probiotics Sports nutrition immune support Streptococcus salivarius

Dietary supplementation with the oral probiotic BLIS K12 may improve immune parameters in healthy people performing a high-intensity training (HIT) program, says a new RCT.

Thirty days of supplementation with Streptococcus salivarius​ K12 led to increases in salivary immunoglobulin A (sIgA), the main immune factor in saliva and known to be the first line of defense in protecting against infection.

Scientists from the University of Urbino Carlo Bo in Italy published their data in the Frontiers in Immunology​.


BLIS is one of the best-known probiotics for oral health and was developed by scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand. It is a specific strain of S. salivarius​, which secretes powerful antimicrobial molecules called BLIS: Bacteriocin-Like-Inhibitory Substances.

There are different BLIS ingredients available, including K12 and M18: K12 supports ENT health and M18 supports teeth and gum health.

The potential immune supporting effects of K12 have been reported earlier, with a 2021 paper in Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins​ stating the probiotic may induce an anti-inflammatory immune response, increasing Treg frequency and levels of IL-10 production.

Commenting on the new study, Dr John Hale, Chief Technology Officer at Blis Technologies, said: “The study adds to the growing research on BLIS K12’s impact for immunity and upper respiratory support.  Sports supplements are just one area that we can see great market potential for upper respiratory defense, as we look to work with partners to grow BLIS K12’s presence in this category.”

On those partners, Jennifer Walker, BLIS' Chief Revenue Officer, said: "Developing products that boost the immune system is one such health area that has been well received by partners and we anticipate even greater growth as markets continue to place an emphasis on prevention.

"Specifically for the sports nutrition ingredients market, we see probiotics playing a greater role in the years ahead. Global Market Insights reports that the probiotics segment of the Sports Nutrition Ingredients Market (2022 value: > $3.5 bn globally) is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.5% through 2032."

Study details

The new randomized, single-blind parallel-group study included 20 active young students (24 started the trial) randomly assigned to receive either the probiotic or placebo for 30 days. After this intervention period, the students underwent a graded exercise test and five HIT sessions, all within 3 days.

Results showed that the K12 group experienced significant increases in sIgA levels, while the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) was the same between the groups.

In the fiercely competitive world of sports, where victory often hinges on the tiniest of margins, the mere thought of falling ill is a nightmare for any athlete, said Dr Hale. “Optimal immune fitness assumes equal significance alongside physical fitness, ensuring athletes can maximize their potential,” he added.

The Italy-based scientists called to more research to further explore the potential immune-supporting activity of the strain. “Future studies on larger samples over longer durations and the use of other types of training stresses (managed by intensity and duration) could provide a more complete view of the potential benefits of S. salivarius K12 supplementation on URTI incidence,” they wrote.

Source: Frontiers in Immunology
Volume 14 – 2023, doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2023.1129060
“Use of​ Streptococcus salivarius K12 in supporting the mucosal immune function of active young subjects: A randomised double-blind study”
Authors: A. Bertuccioli et al.


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