Citation Info

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 40(8):1463-1471. Available:

Effects of Beta-glucan on immune function and upper respiratory tract infections in endurance athletes.

Nieman DC, Henson DA, McMahon M, Wrieden JL, Davis JM, Murphy EA, Gross SJ, McAnulty LS, Dumke CL.


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.