Vitamin C Supplementation and Salivary Immune Function Following Exercise-Heat Stress

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Prolonged physical exertion and environmental heat stress may elicit postexercise depression of immune cell function, increasing upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) susceptibility. We investigated the effects of acute and short-term vitamin C (VC) compared with placebo (PL) supplementation on URTI susceptibility, salivary immunoglobulin A (s-IgA), and cortisol responses in healthy individuals following prolonged exercise-heat stress.


Twelve participants were randomized into the VC or PL group in a double-blind design. For 12 days, participants consumed 3 × 500 mg tablets of VC or PL per day, with testing completed at baseline, then following acute (1 d) and short-term (8 d) supplementation. Participants performed 120.1 ± 49.6 min of cycling at 54 ± 6% VO2max in a hot (34.8 ± 1.0°C and 13 ± 3% relative humidity) environment, with saliva samples collected at pre-, post-, and 72 h postexercise. Health logs specifying URTI symptoms were completed for 7 days postexercise.


A 2 × 3 × 3 mixed ANOVA with a post hoc Bonferroni correction factor revealed a significant linear trend in postexercise cortisol attenuation in the VC group, 21.7 ± 15.1 nmol/L (mean ± SD) at baseline, to 13.5 ± 10.0 at acute, to 7.6 ± 4.2 after short term (P = .032). No differences were detected in ratio of s-IgA to protein or URTI symptoms between groups.


These data suggest that vitamin C supplementation can decrease postexercise cortisol in individuals performing exercise similar to that of a half-marathon or marathon in hot conditions. However, no changes in s-IgA and URTI were evident, possibly due to previous moderate training and reduced physical and psychological stress compared with athletes participating in ultramarathons.

Carrillo is with the Environmental Ergonomics Laboratory, School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS; Murphy is with the School of Recreation Management and Kinesiology, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS; and Cheung is with the Environmental Ergonomics Laboratory, Department of Physical Education and Kinesiology, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada.