Probiotics may reduce post-exercise inflammation, offer performance benefits: RCT

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Co-ingestion of Streptococcus thermophilus FP4 and Bifidobacterium breve BR03 may reduce the drops in performance in the days after muscle-damaging exercise, says a new study.

Twenty-one days of supplementation with the probiotic combination also resulted in a greater resting arm angle, compared to placebo, report researchers in the journal Nutrients.

“The study showed a significant reduction is baseline inflammation by 10%, prior to the muscle-damaging exercise bout,” lead author Dr Ralf Jäger, co-founding partner of global independent consulting firm Increnovo LLC, told us. “This finding has great implications for overall health, as increased baseline inflammation is an increased risk factor for numerous conditions. In addition, the results also point in the direction of future research, such as the use of anti-inflammatory probiotic strains in joint health (increase in range-of-motion, reduce inflammation).

“While athletes come in all different forms and shapes, and they have different nutritional goals (e.g. gain or lose body weight), they have one thing in common, they use sports supplements to increase their performance, recover faster, or train harder. While probiotics have been successfully used to increase immune health in athletes, this is the first study showing potential performance benefits by supplementing a straight probiotic product.”

The study used strains developed by Probiotical, and the Italian company funded the study. The strains are distributed in the US by Pharmachem.

Study details

Working with scientists from Texas Christian University (USA), R&D Bioloab (Italy) and Massey University (New Zealand) 15 healthy resistance-trained men to participate in their double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled, crossover study. The men were randomly assigned to receive either 5 billion live cells (AFU) of S. thermophilus FP4 and an equal number of B. breve BR03 or placebo for 21 days. After this they performed an eccentric exercise of the elbow flexors known to induce muscle damage. This was followed by a 21-day washout period before the men crossed over to the other group.

Results showed that blood levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), an inflammatory marker, decreased following probiotic supplementation compared to baseline, and this was maintained for 48 hours after exercise. However, the change did not reach statistical significance compared to placebo.

Probiotic supplementation was also associated with enhanced isometric average peak torque production at 24 to 72 hours post-exercise, and “likely moderately increased resting arm angle” 24 and 48 hours post-exercise, said the researchers.

“These data suggest that the specific dietary probiotics may assist in the recovery of performance following unaccustomed heavy eccentric exercise,” wrote Dr Jäger.and his co-authors. “Further studies are warranted to elucidate the potential mechanism(s) for these observations and to examine dose response and other exercise conditions.”

Analytic method

Dr Jäger told NutraIngredients-USA that the study quantified the probiotic doses as “live cells (AFU)” and not at CFUs (although they did include this is their paper).

“As analytical method for probiotics, flow cytometry (live cells, AFU) offers numerous advantages over the classic plate counting method (CFU),” explained Dr Jäger. “One drawback of flow cytometry and labelling finished products with live cells (AFU), rather than CFU, is the lingering question of how CFUs from previous studies translate into live cells, and in order to substantiate claims, the dosing used in the clinical studies needs to be used in the finished products.

“We have published our data in this study as ‘live cells (AFU)’, which will allow customers to use ‘live cells (AFU)’ rather than CFU on their packaging and allows them to substantiate their claims, as AFU was used in the paper. We have added CFU in the methods too, in case companies want to stick with the established unit and analytical method.”

Source: Nutrients
2016, Volume 8, Number 10, Pages 642; doi: 10.3390/nu8100642
“Probiotic Streptococcus thermophilus FP4 and Bifidobacterium breve BR03 Supplementation Attenuates Performance and Range-of-Motion Decrements Following Muscle Damaging Exercise”
Authors: R. Jäger et al. 

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