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Taking Probiotics Greatly Reduces Infections in Athletes
Thursday, August 21, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer of Natural News.com
Athletes who took probiotic supplements suffered fewer infections and recovered more quickly than those who did not, in a study conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Researchers studied 20 top-level, long-distance endurance runners for two months, assigning them to take either a placebo or a supplement of the probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus fermentum. During that time, the athletes recorded any day on which they experienced symptoms of winter illnesses, including coughs and runny noses.
The researchers added together the total symptom days of both groups, and found that while the placebo group experience symptoms for a total of 72 days, the probiotic group experience only 30 days' worth of symptoms.
In addition, blood tests revealed that the athletes who were taking probiotics had twice the levels of an immune chemical known as interferon gamma as the athletes in the placebo group.
While researchers do not understand how probiotics function, particularly since they appear to be effective even in small concentrations, an increasing body of evidence shows that these beneficial bacteria can boost the body's immune system, among other beneficial health effects. Recent research has also found that probiotic bacteria help regulate metabolism.
The research was carried out on athletes, because the strenuous training undergone by marathon runners is known to compromise the immune system, and even minor cold symptoms can seriously setback training regimen. But probiotics specialist Jeremy Nicholson of Imperial College London warned that the results of the current study might not apply to less active people.
"The fitness, lifestyles, diets and dietary control of long-distance runners is likely to be substantially different from those of the general population," Nicholson said, "and we know from other work that people with low body mass index have very different gut microflora .... Thus, conclusions drawn from ... the runners may not be applicable to the sadly unfit, nutritionally unbalanced general population to which most of us belong."