Strenuous and/or prolonged exercise causes transient perturbations in immune function. It is well accepted that this is one mechanism contributing to the higher occurrence of infection (e.g. upper respiratory tract infection (URTI)) in athletes, especially endurance athletes. URTI or upper respiratory tract (URT) symptoms can negatively affect training and competition performance but athletes must train intensively to be successful. Therefore, interventions that can legitimately enhance immune function and reduce URTI risk can be of benefit to athletes. Bovine colostrum supplementation has been investigated as a possible nutritional countermeasure to enhance (or maintain) immune function, and reduce URTI risk, following strenuous or prolonged exercise and during intensive training periods. There is convincing evidence that daily supplementation with bovine colostrum, for a number of weeks (and preliminary evidence for acute effects after a single dose), can maintain intestinal barrier integrity, immune function and reduce the chances of suffering URTI or URT symptoms in athletes or those undertaking heavy training. The mechanisms are not fully understood at present but there is preliminary evidence suggesting that the effects on immune function are attributable, at least in part, to small bioactive components that survive digestion and are biologically available after consumption, but further work is required. In summary, the balance of existing evidence does support the notion that bovine colostrum is beneficial for certain groups of athletes, such as those involved in strenuous training (e.g. endurance athletes), in terms of immunity and resistance to infection.
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