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18.03.2013


Athletes who take Polypodium leucotomos are less often ill

Athletes who take Polypodium leucotomos are less often ill
Athletes who put in long hours of training are ill more frequently. Intensive physical exertion takes its toll on the immune system. That's why athletes are interested in naturally occurring substances that can help keep their immune system on top of things. According to researchers at the Sports Medicine Service, part of the local government on the Spanish island of Mallorca, an extract of Polypodium leucotomos is an interesting candidate.

In the 1980s and 1990s the American sports scientist David Nieman discovered that intensive endurance exercise placed a heavy burden on the immune system. [Thorax. 1995 December; 50(12): 12291231.] Nieman discovered for example that, after running a marathon, endurance athletes are six times more likely to become ill than athletes who stay at home.

From other studies we know that the more kilometres endurance athletes clock up each week, the more likely they are to catch cold, develop flu or another infectious disease. The figure below summarises the effect of exercise on infection. A small amount of exercise may stimulate the immune system and reduce the likelihood of infection; intensive exercise does not.


Athletes who take Polypodium leucotomos are less often ill


Athletes who take Polypodium leucotomos are less often ill


The Spanish researchers were curious to know whether supplementation with Polypodium leucotomos could suppress the Nieman effect. Polypodium leucotomos, a relative of Phlebodium decumanum, is a fern that grows in the warm zones of North and South America. If you expose your immune cells to extracts of the plant, they produce interleukin-2 and interferon-gamma, and you boost your sensitivity to interleukin-10. [Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1997 Jan; 43(1): 85-9.] This may mean that the immune cells fight pathogens and cancer cells more aggressively. In experiments Polypodium leucotomos also boosts the number of T-lymphocytes and Natural Killer Cells.

In addition, exposure to Polypodium leucotomos inhibits the production of interleukin-1-beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha by the immune cells. This may mean that Polypodium leucotomos inhibits autoimmune diseases.

The researchers gave a group of 50 athletes 2 doses daily of 480 mg Polypodium leucotomos extract for 3 months. The test subjects were 18-30 years old, they did volleyball, football, athletics or cycling, and trained over 20 hours a week. A control group took a placebo.

The supplementation did have an effect. During the experiment in the control group 56 percent contracted an infection from a pathogen, and became to a greater or lesser extent ill. In the experimental group the figure was only 14 percent.


Athletes who take Polypodium leucotomos are less often ill


Athletes who take Polypodium leucotomos are less often ill


Polypodium leucotomos also speeded up the recovery process. The figure above shows that in the experimental group only one athlete with a virus infection was affected for a protracted period. In the placebo group however, 12 people were affected.

"Polypodium leucotomos extract has been shown to be useful in the prevention of intercurrent infectious processes when an appropriate dose is prescribed and compliance is adequate", the researchers conclude. "Further studies are required to confirm the results of the present study."

Source:
Infect Drug Resist. 2012;5:149-53.

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