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Effect of Exercising in the Heat on Intestinal Fatty Acid-Binding Protein, Endotoxins, and Lipopolysaccharide-Binding Protein Markers in Trained Athletic Populations: A Systematic Literature Review

Alice Wallett, Julien D. Périard, Philo Saunders, and Andrew McKune

Along with digestion and absorption of nutrients, the gastrointestinal epithelium acts as a primary intestinal defense layer, preventing luminal pathogens from entering the circulation. During exercise in the heat, epithelial integrity can become compromised, allowing bacteria and bacterial endotoxins to translocate into circulation, triggering a systemic inflammatory response and exacerbating gastrointestinal damage. While this relationship seems clear in the general population in endurance/ultraendurance exercise, the aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the effect of exercise in the heat on blood markers of gastrointestinal epithelial disturbance in well-trained individuals. Following the 2009 Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviewed and Meta-Analyses guidelines, five electronic databases were searched for appropriate research, and 1,885 studies were identified. Five studies met the inclusion criteria and were subject to full methodological appraisal by two reviewers. Critical appraisal of the studies was conducted using the McMasters Critical Review Form. The studies investigated changes in markers of gastrointestinal damage (intestinal fatty acid–binding protein, endotoxin, and/or lipopolysaccharide-binding protein) following acute exercise in warm to hot conditions (≥ 30 °C) and included trained or well-trained participants with direct comparisons to a control temperate condition (≤ 22 °C). The studies found that prolonged submaximal and strenuous exercise in hot environmental conditions can acutely increase epithelial disturbance compared with exercise in cooler conditions, with disturbances not being clinically relevant. However, trained and well-trained populations appear to tolerate exercise-induced gastrointestinal disturbance in the heat. Whether this is an acquired tolerance related to regular training remains to be investigated.

Free access

The Impact of a Short-Term Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate High-Fat Diet on Biomarkers of Intestinal Epithelial Integrity and Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Alannah K.A. McKay, Alice M. Wallett, Andrew J. McKune, Julien D. Périard, Philo Saunders, Jamie Whitfield, Nicolin Tee, Ida A. Heikura, Megan L.R. Ross, Avish P. Sharma, Ricardo J.S. Costa, and Louise M. Burke

Endurance exercise can disturb intestinal epithelial integrity, leading to increased systemic indicators of cell injury, hyperpermeability, and pathogenic translocation. However, the interaction between exercise, diet, and gastrointestinal disturbance still warrants exploration. This study examined whether a 6-day dietary intervention influenced perturbations to intestinal epithelial disruption in response to a 25-km race walk. Twenty-eight male race walkers adhered to a high carbohydrate (CHO)/energy diet (65% CHO, energy availability = 40 kcal·kg FFM−1·day−1) for 6 days prior to a Baseline 25-km race walk. Athletes were then split into three subgroups: high CHO/energy diet (n = 10); low-CHO, high-fat diet (LCHF: n = 8; <50 g/day CHO, energy availability = 40 kcal·kg FFM−1·day−1); and low energy availability (n = 10; 65% CHO, energy availability = 15 kcal·kg FFM−1·day−1) for a further 6-day dietary intervention period prior to a second 25-km race walk (Adaptation). During both trials, venous blood was collected pre-, post-, and 1 hr postexercise and analyzed for markers of intestinal epithelial disruption. Intestinal fatty acid-binding protein concentration was significantly higher (twofold increase) in response to exercise during Adaptation compared to Baseline in the LCHF group (p = .001). Similar findings were observed for soluble CD14 (p < .001) and lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (p = .003), where postexercise concentrations were higher (53% and 36%, respectively) during Adaptation than Baseline in LCHF. No differences in high CHO/energy diet or low energy availability were apparent for any blood markers assessed (p > .05). A short-term LCHF diet increased intestinal epithelial cell injury in response to a 25-km race walk. No effect of low energy availability on gastrointestinal injury or symptoms was observed.

Open access

Auditing the Representation of Females Versus Males in Heat Adaptation Research

Monica K. Kelly, Ella S. Smith, Harry A. Brown, William T. Jardine, Lilia Convit, Steven J. Bowe, Dominique Condo, Joshua H. Guy, Louise M. Burke, Julien D. Périard, Rhiannon M.J. Snipe, Rodney J. Snow, and Amelia J. Carr

The aim of this audit was to quantify female representation in research on heat adaptation. Using a standardized audit tool, the PubMed database was searched for heat adaptation literature from inception to February 2023. Studies were included if they investigated heat adaptation among female and male adults (≥18–50 years) who were free from noncommunicable diseases, with heat adaptation the primary or secondary outcome of interest. The number and sex of participants, athletic caliber, menstrual status, research theme, journal impact factor, Altmetric score, Field-Weighted Citation Impact, and type of heat exposure were extracted. A total of 477 studies were identified in this audit, including 7,707 participants with ∼13% of these being female. Most studies investigated male-only cohorts (∼74%, n = 5,672 males), with ∼5% (n = 360 females) including female-only cohorts. Of the 126 studies that included females, only 10% provided some evidence of appropriate methodological control to account for ovarian hormone status, with no study meeting best-practice recommendations. Of the included female participants, 40% were able to be classified to an athletic caliber, with 67% of these being allocated to Tier 2 (i.e., trained/developmental) or below. Exercise heat acclimation was the dominant method of heat exposure (437 interventions), with 21 studies investigating sex differences in exercise heat acclimation interventions. We recommend that future research on heat adaptation in female participants use methodological approaches that consider the potential impact of sexual dimorphism on study outcomes to provide evidence-based guidelines for female athletes preparing for exercise or competition in hot conditions.