Vitamin D insufficiency may be associated with increased risk of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in athletes. This study examined the effects of vitamin D₃ supplementation on salivary immune functions and symptoms of URTI in vitamin D-insufficient taekwondo athletes. Twenty-five male taekwondo athletes, aged 19⁻22 years with vitamin D insufficiency [serum 25-hydroxyvitamin-D concentrations (25(OH)D, 31.3 ± 1.39 nmol/L)], participated in this study. They were randomized to receive 5000 IU/day of vitamin D₃ (n = 13) or placebo capsule (n = 12) during 4 weeks of winter training. Blood samples were collected two times (pre- and post-tests) for analyzing serum 25(OH)D concentration while salivary samples were obtained three times (pre-, mid-, and post-tests) for secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) and lactoferrin analyses. The symptoms of URTI were reported daily during the intervention. Serum 25(OH)D concentration significantly increased by 255.6% in the vitamin D group, whereas in the placebo group it did not change (p < 0.001). While the significant increase in SIgA was observed in both groups (p < 0.001), elevated salivary lactoferrin level in response to winter training was found only in the placebo group (p = 0.011). The change in serum 25(OH)D concentration was negatively associated with total URTI symptoms (r = -0.435, p = 0.015). Vitamin D₃ supplementation may be effective in reducing the symptoms of URTI during winter training in vitamin D-insufficient taekwondo athletes.
Keywords: high-intensity training; respiratory immune function; secretory immunoglobulin; vitamin D.