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J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 20;15:9. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0213-3. eCollection 2018.

An attempt to induce an immunomodulatory effect in rowers with spirulina extract.

Author information

Department of Morphological and Health Sciences, Faculty of Physical Culture in Gorzów Wlkp. Poland, 13 Estkowskiego Str.66 - 400, Gorzów Wlkp, Poland.
Department of Water Sports, Faculty of Physical Culture in Gorzów Wlkp. Poland, 13 Estkowskiego Str, 66 - 400 Gorzów Wlkp, Poland.
3Department of Pediatrics, Endocrinology, Diabetology, Metabolic Disorders and Cardiology of Developmental Age, Pomeranian Medical University, 1 Unii Lubelskiej Str, 71-252 Szczecin, Poland.
4Department of General Pathology, Pomeranian Medical University, 72 Al. Powstanców Wlkp. Str, 70-111 Szczecin, Poland.
Department of Morphological and Health Sciences, Faculty of Physical Culture in Gorzów Wlkp. Poland, 13 Estkowskiego Str, 66 - 400 Gorzów Wlkp, Poland.



The aim of this study was to analyze the response of selected components of the immune system in rowers to maximal physical exercise, and to verify if this response can be modulated by supplementation with spirulina (cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis).


The double-blind study included 19 members of the Polish Rowing Team. The subjects were randomly assigned to the supplemented group (n = 10), receiving 1500 mg of spirulina extract for 6 weeks, or to the placebo group (n = 9). The participants performed a 2000-m test on a rowing ergometer at the beginning (1st examination) and at the end of the supplementation period (2nd examination). Blood samples were obtained from the antecubital vein prior to each exercise test, 1 min after completing the test, and after a 24-h recovery period. Subpopulations of T regulatory lymphocytes (Tregs) [CD4+/CD25+/CD127-], cytotoxic lymphocytes (CTLs) [CD8+/TCRαβ+], natural killer (NK) cells [CD3-/CD16+/CD56+] and TCRδγ-positive (Tδγ) cells were determined by means of flow cytometry.


On the 2nd examination, athletes from the supplemented group showed neither a post-exercise increase in Treg count nor a post-recovery decrease in Tδγ cell count (both observed in the placebo group), and presented with significantly lower values of Treg/CTL prior to and after the exercise. During the same examination, rowers from the placebo group showed a significant post-recovery increase in Treg/(NK + Tδγ + CTL) ratio, which was absent in the supplemented group.


The results of this study imply that supplementation with spirulina extract may protect athletes against a deficit in immune function (especially, anti-infectious function) associated with strenuous exercise, and may cause a beneficial shift in "overtraining threshold" preventing a radical deterioration of immunity.


Flow cytometry; Inflammation; Rowers; Spirulina; Strenuous exercise; Supplementation

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

The experimental procedures and potential risks were explained to the participants and a written informed consent was provided and signed prior to inclusion in the study. The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and the protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Poznan University of Medical Sciences (act 769/13 archived number 10/October/2013).Not applicable.The authors declare no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise. The authors declare that the results of the study are presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification, or inappropriate data manipulation.Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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