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Why Immunity is Essential for Peak Performance

Whether weekend warrior or competitive athlete, a proper recovery regime must be followed to replenish the body’s reserves and repair any damage caused by an exercise programme.

When amateur or professional athletes engage in intensive exercise, they put their whole body under stress—from their muscles to their immune system. They damage tissues at the micro level and use their energy stores as fuel. This is why athletes feel sore and tired, and may succumb to an infectious illness during the hours following a workout or competition. A proper recovery regime must be followed to replenish the body’s reserves and repair any damage caused by the exercise programme.

Sports nutrition products, once reserved for athletes and bodybuilders, are now attracting a wider audience of health-conscious consumers. People with a range of different active lifestyles are looking for products that satisfy their nutritional needs. As the sports nutrition category overlaps into mainstream, consumers are gaining a more holistic view of recovery, fuelling their interest for safe and effective solutions to keep their immune system running strong. This creates an opportunity for manufacturers to reposition or launch new post-workout formulations that include proactive immune health benefits.

Intensive training can lead to temporary changes in the immune system that may increase vulnerability to viral and bacterial infection. For instance, the ability of immune cells to kill harmful microorganisms in the respiratory system is significantly suppressed after an intensive workout or competition. Also, the secretion of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody important for mucosal infection defence, is reduced in the nasal mucosa.1 Strenuous training can also induce systemic changes in the body such as elevated cortisol and epinephrine levels in the blood, causing alterations in white blood cell counts.2

A dietary fibre that is attracting a lot of interest in the immune health category is beta-1,3/1,6-glucan from baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). This beta-glucan “primes" the innate immune system, improving the body’s ability to protect itself.3

Yeast beta-glucan has been studied by scientists around the world, and is recognised as safe4 and effective.3,5 Studies with athletes indicate that the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections after a high-intensity exercise—for example, a marathon—is reduced after oral intake of yeast beta-glucan.6 This beta-glucan seems to increase typical innate immune parameters in blood, such as monocyte counts and cytokine levels, suggesting that it may have implications for infection resistance post-exercise.7

Altogether, these results indicate that yeast beta-glucan is a valuable addition to sports nutrition formulations, supporting healthy immune function to keep performance at peak levels.

NutraQ markets Nutramunity™, a beta-1,3/1,6-glucan from baker’s yeast. Visit Stand J84 at Vitafoods Europe 2016 to learn more.


1Steerenberg et al. “Salivary levels of immunoglobulin A in triathletes." Eur J Oral Sci. 1997;105(4):305-309.

2Nieman DC. “Immune response to heavy exertion." J Appl Physiol. 1997;82(5):1385-1394.

3Raa J. “Immune modulation by non-digestible and non-absorbable beta-1,3/1,6-glucan." Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2015;26:27824.

4EFSA. Scientific opinion on the safety of ‘yeast beta-glucans’ as a Novel Food ingredient (Question no: EFSA-Q-2010-00952, adopted: 08 April 2011 by the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies). EFSA J. 2011a;9(5):2137.

5Samuelsen et al. “Effects of orally administered yeast-derived beta-glucans: a review." Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014;58(1): 183-193.

6Talbott S, Talbott J. “Effect of beta-1,3/1,6-glucan on upper respiratory tract infection symptoms and mood state in marathon athletes." J Sports Sci Med. 2009;8(4):509-515.

7Carpenter et al. “Baker's yeast beta-glucan supplementation increases monocytes and cytokines post-exercise: implications for infection risk?" Br J Nutr. 2013;109(3):478-486.

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