Latest News » Probiotics may help with immune system damage caused by intense exercise

Olympians could benefit from a diet rich in probiotics.

Now that the 2012 London Olympic Games are in full swing, the world is clamoring to know more about the participating athletes. Many publications have speculated about the nutrition regimens various Olympians are following in order to consistently perform such jaw-dropping physical feats.

The pop culture website BuzzFeed recently published a feature on five athletes competing in this year's Olympic Games, and revealed that most relied heavily on the nutrients found in dairy products, which are essential for rebuilding muscle tissue and moderating blood pressure.

Additionally, in February, the Journal of Dairy Science, the official journal of the American Dairy Science Association, featured a 2011 Brazil-based study revealing that dairy products rich in probiotics could potentially lessen some of the damage done to the immune system after strenuous physical activity.

"Intense physical activity results in a substantial volume of stress," the official abstract states. According to the researchers, this buildup can increase the likelihood of immunosuppression among athletes.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that immunosuppression is when the immune system no longer functions at the level it should, or, in extreme cases, is completely depleted. In order to combat this condition, athletes typically consume dairy products, the researchers note. To determine the varying effectiveness of specific proteins derived from this food group, scientists fed two types of cheeses – one rich in probiotics, the other not – to a group of adult mice that had been physically exhausted after running on a treadmill.

After two weeks of observation, the scientists found that the levels of certain chemicals that impact immune system function had not decreased as much in the mice that consumed the probiotic cheese after exercise. The scientists therefore concluded that probiotics may protect athletes from infections related to extreme physical exertion.

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