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Keeping athletes on their feet

Keeping athletes on their feet

Colostrum supplements could be the answer to one of nature's curious ironies - that ultra-fit long distance athletes are more prone to colds than the average weekend jogger.

A key factor appears to be a decline in the levels of secretory immunoglobulin A (s-IgA) - the body's first line of defence against infection - after intense bouts of exercise.

A study conducted at Massey University by Master of Science researcher Christine Crooks has shown that colostrum supplements boost immunity levels in marathon runners.

Ms Crooks looked at male and female runners aged 25 to 58 years, all of whom were training for the 2002 Rotorua Marathon.

The athletes were running an average 43 kms a week, with a top-end range of 105 kms. Half the athletes were given a colostrum powder beverage supplement and half a placebo (a beverage without colostrum).

The research, sponsored by Fonterra's Health & Nutrition division, found "statistically significant" levels of s-IgA in the colostrum group which were almost double those of the control group.

The runners' s-IgA levels were measured before supplements were given, monthly during the study and two weeks after the Rotorua Marathon. Diet, training and wellness records were also kept.

Ms Liz McMaster, Health Platform Manager at Fonterra Health & Nutrition, says the research results suggest that colostrum may enhance athletes' immunity and may help to prevent upper respiratory tract infections that runners often report, typically about 14 days after marathon-type race events.

"More work needs to be done to understand how colostrum actually works in boosting high performance athletes' immunity and we also need to expand this knowledge to see if other groups who are at risk of upper respiratory tract infections will also benefit from colostrum supplements," she said.

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