Beta-glucan, immune function, and upper respiratory tract infections in athletes

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Aug;40(8):1463-71. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817057c2.


Purpose: This study investigated the effects of oat beta-glucan (BG) supplementation on chronic resting immunity, exercise-induced changes in immune function, and self-reported upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) incidence in human endurance athletes.

Methods: Trained male cyclists were randomized to BG (N = 19) or placebo (P; N = 17) groups and under double-blind procedures received BG (5.6 g x d(-1)) or P beverage supplements for 2 wk before, during, and 1 d after a 3-d period in which subjects cycled for 3 h x d(-1) at approximately 57% maximal watts. URTI symptoms were monitored during BG supplementation and for 2 wk afterward. Blood samples were collected before and after 2 wk of supplementation (both samples, 8:00 a.m.), immediately after the 3-h exercise bout on day 3 (6:00 p.m.), and 14 h after exercise (8:00 a.m.) and were assayed for natural killer cell activity (NKCA), polymorphonuclear respiratory burst activity (PMN-RBA), phytohemagglutinin-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation (PHA-LP), plasma interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-10, IL-1 receptor agonist (IL-1ra), and IL-8, and blood leukocyte IL-10, IL-8, and IL-1ra mRNA expression.

Results: Chronic resting levels and exercise-induced changes in NKCA, PMN-RBA, PHA-LP, plasma cytokines, and blood leukocyte cytokine mRNA did not differ significantly between BG and P groups. URTI incidence during the 2-wk postexercise period did not differ significantly between groups.

Conclusions: An 18-d period of BG versus P ingestion did not alter chronic resting or exercise-induced changes in immune function or URTI incidence in cyclists during the 2-wk period after an intensified exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology*
  • Sports
  • beta-Glucans / administration & dosage
  • beta-Glucans / immunology*


  • beta-Glucans