Can prebiotics rival drugs for exercise-induced asthma?

Loading the player...

The ability of prebiotics to reduce exercise-induced asthma – a common ailment among elite and amateur athletes – is exciting the research and sporting worlds alike as a powerful drug alternative or adjunct. An ad hoc trial has already been undertaken by British Olympians.

At the recent Probiota event in Berlin, Dr Neil Williams, Exercise Physiology and Nutrition researcher at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, revealed key findings of his galacto-oligosaccharide-based work, and the sports performance-based interest it is attracting.

“We saw about a 40% reduction in the severity of the bronco-constriction that develops when an individual has an exercise-induced asthma exacerbation,” said Dr Williams of the study among asthma-prone endurance-based athletes.

“And the important thing about that was that it was actually perceivable by the patient as well.”

Prebiotics v steroids

Dr Williams noted the effect reduced the severity of breathlessness, wheezing, tightness in the chest and excess mucus production after three weeks of prebiotic administration.

In this light prebiotics possess the potential to reduce the use of typical asthma drugs like corticosteroids, he observed.

Corticosteroids are a class of drugs typically used in asthma inhalers and treatments but hold a controversial status in professional sports as despite being prohibited as performance enhancers by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), they have long been abused by hordes of elite athletes via often lax Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) – essentially doctors’ notes permitting the use of banned substances if conditions like asthma can be demonstrated.

“There is a definite need to try and look at non-pharmacological treatments that can be adhered to by athletes and that way we might be able to alleviate some of these controversies that are ongoing.”

‘We are allowing our athletes to have more training days…’

The galacto-oligosaccharide intervention was trialled by British athletes during last year’s Rio Olympiad with an eye on secondary benefits like a reduction in traveller’s diarrhoea and boosted immune/respiratory systems via microbiota modulation.

“We are allowing our athletes to have more training days…and that could over the long time have a beneficial effect on performance,” he said.

In terms of transferring science to shop shelf, more clinical trials were needed before any prebiotic supplements or foods could make regulator-approved asthma claims.

Dr Williams called for further research into how the gut microbiota differs between “endurance-trained athletes and sedentary controls” as well as the little understood lung microbiota.

UK prebiotic specialist Bimuno is supporting the research.

Related News

Probiota Insights: What have the last five years taught us about probiotics?

Probiota Insights: What have the last five years taught us about probiotics?

Chitin-glucan has prebiotic potential to cut cholesterol, finds KitoZyme trial

Chitin-glucan has prebiotic potential to cut cholesterol, finds KitoZyme trial


Sports, doping and supplements: Where do authorities, clubs and leagues stand?

Results from large scale clinical studies in dentistry appear promising, but clinical recommendations are still premature. ©iStock/VladimirFLoyd

All mouth and some action: Oral probiotics still in infancy but promise is there

The best known example of faecal microbial transplant (FMT) is the treatment of clostridium difficile infections. ©iStock/igorr1

Making a deposit: Faecal biobanks have ‘great potential’

The use of probiotics in premature infants was associated with a decreased incidence of NEC, late-onset sepsis, and mortality. ©iStock

A 'golden age' of probiotics for premature babies? It depends on birth weight and strains: Meta-analysis

Microbiome engineering holds great promise thanks to advances in the field of synthetic biology. ©iStock

Microbiome manipulation proposed as way to ‘engineer’ health

Probiota Insights: Does the prebiotic definition need reworking?

Probiota Insights: Does the prebiotic definition need reworking?

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.