Bimuno prebiotic may boost immune health for elite rugby players

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Flying Colours Ltd / Getty Images
© Flying Colours Ltd / Getty Images

Related tags galactooligosaccharides Prebiotics GOS elite athletes rugby Sports nutrition bimuno immune support

Supplementing the diet of elite athletes with prebiotic galactooligosaccharide (GOS) may reduce the duration of upper respiratory symptoms and support gut health, says a new study that may improve the athletes’ availability to train and compete.

Data published in the European Journal of Sport Science​ indicated that daily supplementation with 2.9 grams per of Clasado’s Bimuno GOS experienced a two-day reduction the duration of symptoms of upper respiratory infection.

Secretion of salivary immunoglobulin A (sIgA), the main immune factor in saliva and known to be the first line of defense in protecting against infection, was also increased by 42% in elite rugby players receiving the prebiotic after 168 days of supplementation.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess the effect of a prebiotic dietary intervention on URS [upper respiratory symptoms] and GIS [gastrointestinal symptoms] in an elite-athletic population,” wrote scientists from Nottingham Trent University, the University of Reading, and London Irish Rugby Football Club.

“The 2-day reduction in URS episode duration is relevant for athletes and coaches, potentially aiding a quicker return to play following a URS episode.”

Training and immune health

It is well established high-level training and exercise can depress the immune system, and this worsens in athletes with excessive training load, psychological stress, disturbed sleep, and so on. ​Multiple studies have shown how people training for marathons or ultra-marathons, for example, are at an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).

Probiotics have been studied for their immune supporting benefits for athletes and non-athletes, with the the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s position paper on probiotics​ supporting a role for specific probiotic strains to support immune health and reduce the incidence of URTIs.

The new study is reportedly the first to evaluate prebiotics in elite athletes, and can “inform practice suggesting that seasonal prebiotic use has the potential to modulate immune function and reduce illness in elite rugby union, which may improve a player’s availability to train and compete,” wrote the researchers.

Commenting on the new data, Per Rehne, CEO of Clasado Biosciences, told us: “This recent publication further clarifies the role Bimuno has to play in sports nutrition applications as it builds on another study published earlier this year in the Journal of Applied Microbiology​ demonstrating that Bimuno decreases gut pH, ammonia, branched Short-chain Fatty Acids (resulting in lower proteolytic fermentation).

“We have been supplying a number of teams since 2012 and are today official sponsor/supplier to British Rowing and Supply a number of professional Cycling teams as well,” he added.

Study details

The researchers recruited 33 elite rugby union players and randomly assigned them to either Bimuno at a dose of 2.9 grams per day GOS or placebo (2.8 g/day maltodextrin) for 168 days.

Results showed that, in addition to the two-day reduction in upper respiratory symptom duration, the rugby players also experienced fewer and less severe gastrointestinal symptoms, compared to placebo.

In addition, the sIgA secretion rate was 42% higher in the prebiotic group, compared to placebo. On the other hand, no differences between the groups was detected for the inflammatory biomarkers, CRP and TNF-alpha.

“Over a 168-day supplementation period, the prebiotic B-GOS reduced the duration of URS, incidence, and severity of GIS and enhanced sIgA secretory rate in elite rugby union players,” wrote the researchers.

“These findings suggest that prebiotic use may have the potential to modulate immune function and reduce illness, which may improve an athlete’s availability to train and compete.”

Dr Neil Williams from Nottingham Trent University discusses the findings in the following video:

Source: European Journal of Sport Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1080/17461391.2023.2216657
“Effects of 24-week prebiotic intervention on self-reported upper respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, and markers of immunity in elite rugby union players”
Authors: C. Parker, et al.

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