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Spirulina Supplements May Boost Immune Function in Elite Athletes

By on October 25, 2022 0

It is well known that high intensity training and prolonged exercise can severely affect immune responses and athletic performance, as well as negatively impact overall health.

Studies show that intense, long-lasting sport lowers the ratio of immune cells and decreases monocytes that mediate adaptive immune responses and stimulate tissue repair functions.

“Abnormal changes in immune cell ratio are often considered a symptomatic representation of immune dysfunction. Many athletes are plagued by similar issues,”Explained scientists from Ningbo University in China reported that in Nutrients​.

As a result, athletes often take supplements to maintain their health and speed up their recovery. Natural therapies have gained prominence for avoiding doping violations, but also because they have high bioavailability and better efficacy than synthetic options.

Immune regulation

Spirulina is becoming more and more popular because it has proven benefits on immune regulation. It contains gamma-linolenic acid and phycocyanin, both known to modulate the immune system.

Researchers believe that the antioxidant and oxygen free radical scavenging properties of phycocyanin may be key to this activity, but there is limited evidence on effects in humans and few studies have used immune cells to measure activity, according to the authors.

Immune cells (leukocytes) include five subtypes (monocytes, eosinophils, neutrophils, basophils and lymphocytes) and are the basic functional units of the immune system, fighting infections and foreign organisms.

Monocytes are the largest type of leukocytes and are essential for normal immune functionality; lymphocytes identify antigens and granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils) ingest foreign substances and participate in allergic reactions.

“Immune cells maintaining within a clinical reference range means the immune system is healthy,”explain the authors.

Leukocyte activity is often used by team physicians and coaches to understand the health status of athletes, and as such, researchers have used cell subtypes to observe the effect of leukocyte supplementation. spirulina on changes in immune function in young athletes.

study design

The randomized, double-blind study involved 39 college footballers training for the 16eUniversity games in the league of Zhejiang province.

Participants were divided into a supplement (SP) or placebo (PG) group and received a daily dose of spirulina extract of 3 g (6 tablets of 500 mg), provided by Lijiang Chenghai Bao Biological Development, or the placebo, comprising a hollow capsule made of edible starch. Supplementation was given at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. for eight weeks.

A blood sample was taken from each participant 41 days after the start of training and 24 hours before a training session, and a second sample was taken eight weeks later, 24 hours after the final training. Athletes trained 150 minutes a day, with a rest day on Sunday.

The trainers used heart bands to monitor training intensity and SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) data analysis software for statistical analysis.

Stabilizing effect

The researchers observed changes in immune cells after eight weeks of leukocyte training and the significantly lower monocyte ratio in PB, which could be a sign of body damage, they say.

“Monocytes congregate in infected tissues within 8 to 12 hours in the presence of inflammatory signals. Therefore, its decline could be unfavorable to immunity​.”

Notably, spirulina has been shown to inhibit changes in the immune cells of MS subjects,”which may be useful in improving the immunity and resistance of athletes to pathogenic infections”,they claim.

Changes in basophils were insignificant in the SP group but were significantly higher than in the PB group, suggesting that supplementation regulated the ratio of immune cells.

There were no significant changes for the other parameters, except for substantial increases in eosinophils in the SP group, also seen in other studies. In addition, changes in the ratio of neutrophils and lymphocytes in participating subjects were not statistically significant.

Indications therefore suggest thatspirulina has a positive effect on rapid onset allergies and responses to parasites or pathogenic bacteria, contributing to improved immune regulation,” conclude the authors.

Source: Nutrients
Published online October 17, 2022: http://doi.org/10.3390/nu14204346​
“Effects of Spirulina Supplementation on Immune Cell Parameters of Elite Athletes”
Authors: Y. Zhang, et al