Background: Bovine colostrum (COL) has been advocated as a nutritional countermeasure to exercise-induced immune dysfunction, but there is a lack of research with clinically relevant in vivo measures.
Aim: To investigate the effects of COL supplementation on in vivo immunity following prolonged exercise using experimental contact hypersensitivity (CHS) with the novel antigen diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP).
Methods: In a double-blind design, 31 men were randomly assigned to COL (20 g/day) or placebo (PLA) for 58 days. Participants ran for 2 h at 60% maximal aerobic capacity on day 28 and received a primary DPCP exposure (sensitisation) 20 min after. On day 56, participants received a low-dose-series DPCP challenge to elicit recall of in vivo immune-specific memory (quantified by skinfold thickness 24 and 48 h later). Analysis of the dose-response curves allowed determination of the minimum dose required to elicit a positive response (i.e., sensitivity).
Results: There was no difference in summed skinfold thickness responses between COL and PLA at 24 h (p = 0.124) and 48 h (p = 0.405). However, sensitivity of in vivo immune responsiveness was greater with COL at 24 h (p < 0.001) and 48 h (p = 0.023) with doses ~ twofold greater required to elicit a positive response in PLA.
Conclusions: COL blunts the prolonged exercise-induced decrease in clinically relevant in vivo immune responsiveness to a novel antigen, which may be a mechanism for reduced illness reports observed in the previous studies. These findings also suggest that CHS sensitivity is highly relevant to host defence.
Keywords: Contact hypersensitivity; Diphenylcyclopropenone; Host defence; Running; Whole integrated immune response.