We recently communicated about Sport & Nutrition with an interview from Fatiha Serbouti. She underlined the relevance of gut health in sport performance and evoked the needs of probiotics in this field. In this line, we publish today an interview about probiotics solutions for athletes from Lucie Lingrand who is project manager in the company ‘Lallemand Health Solutions’.
We asked Lucie about the historical context and interest in the development of ‘probiotics’ for sportsmen and women health, the opportunities, the products, and challenges.
Graduated in agronomics, Lucie Lingrand has studied biomedical sciences at Robert Gordon University in Scotland. After a Bachelor of sciences she has integrated a French business school and is now part of the technical and marketing team at Lallemand Health Solutions. Backed by a rich history and 80 years of expertise in probiotic research and development, Lallemand Health Solutions offers a full line of ready-to-market probiotic formulas and helps its partners to design their own custom & complex formulations. Because LHS controls the overall manufacturing process of its products, the company can ensure customers are receiving the highest quality standard of probiotic formulation.
1/ Why are you interested in Probiotics solutions for Athletes? What is the historical context of your work in this field?
We offer a full line of ready-to-market probiotic formulas and help our partners to design their own custom & complex formulations using Harmonium, LAFTI® or Rosell® probiotic strains together with our proprietary protective technologies. The first ever probiotic strains studied on athletes’ population was L. helveticus LAFTI® L10. In total, four clinical studies have been published with this strain on immunity and gut health, 3 being specifically on athletes.
Probiotics are increasingly well documented for their benefits in digestive health, immune defenses, and even psychological stress. Sportsmen and women often face immune and digestive troubles, especially around a competition. There has been a lot of research on this field conducted by the Olympic committee. In the 2000’s, the relationship between the intensity of physical exercise and immune response has been described as a J-shaped curve. This phenomenon, creating a “window of opportunity”, can last for up to 72 hours . Lowered immunity, combined with hyperventilation that naturally occurs during exercise, contributes to a higher susceptibility to upper respiratory tract (URT) disorders in sportsmen and women. URT infections (URTIs) are a common cause for missing training or even a competition and can affect performance.
Thanks to their properties to support natural defenses, probiotics appeared to be a potential supplement to support sportsmen and women.
In 2006, a pre-post intervention study was conducted on two groups of well-trained recreational athletes: 18 “healthy” ones and 9 others suffering from fatigue, recurrent sore throats, and impaired performance. Before the probiotic treatment, the two groups showed a significant difference in interferon-γ (IFN-γ) levels, a cytokine involved in protection against virus infections, which confirmed the consequence of intense training on immune defenses. The L. helveticus LAFTI® L10 intake succeeded in restoring the lowered immune response: after one month of L. helveticus LAFTI® L10 administration, CD4+ T cells secretion of IFN-γ in fatigued athletes was restored. For the healthy group, IFN-γ level in saliva also increased .
2/ What is the business strategy of Lallemand in developing probiotics for athletes? what is your point of view on the sports probiotics market?
LAFTI L10 is a single strain probiotic with already 3 published papers specifically on athletes. It is proven to improve and support the natural defenses in athletes population. This strain is dairy free, stable out of the fridge and compatible with key ingredients for sports nutrition.
Sports nutrition is a booming market in needs for innovation. Obviously, specific products and selected probiotics represent valuable solutions to formulate scientifically-backed and targeted nutritional solutions to address sports nutrition market.
Active people represent a growing market for nutritional supplements. Sports nutrition is an important segment of this market, driven by three parameters:
1 - the practice of sports,
2 - the cult of performance and
3 - awareness of the importance of adequate nutrition.
According to a consumer insight conducted in stores in the US and published in 2015 by Hellawella , Americans look for health maintenance and immunity in 81% of cases when consuming sports nutrition products.
3/ what is your main discovery in this field? GI health, Immunity, Microbiome modulation?
L. helveticus LAFTI® L10, with four clinical studies, a post-hoc analysis and several in vitro and in vivo mechanistic studies, is the first clinically tested probiotic strain demonstrating support for athletes’ immune health. In a recent study , L. helveticus LAFTI® L10 significantly shortened the duration of URTI-like episodes by 3.4 days (p=0.047) and normalized the CD4+/CD8+ ratio (p=0.020). This study also showed Significantly decreased the number of symptoms by around 29% (4.92 symptoms with the probiotic vs. 6.91 with placebo, p<0.05). URTI severity tended to decrease (p=0.078). Increased the self-rated sense of vigor and tended to reduce the proportion of athletes reporting impaired training. What is interesting in this study is that the population included in the study were aged 18-28 years and would train themselves for over 11 hours per week in various sports and not only one as we can see in other studies.
In a post-hoc analysis published in 2017 , IFN-γ was significantly higher in the probiotic group, suggesting a better prevention of infections and confirming Clancy et al.  results:
All these changes reinforce the findings of the previous study on the immunological benefits of L. helveticus LAFTI® L10 supplementation in athletes. The authors advanced the hypothesis that the above together with the previous studies indicate that “the observed benefits of the probiotics in the present study could be related to an augmentation of the systemic immune system”.
LAFTI® L10 supplementation has also been shown to improve general gut comfort in healthy adults  and support the natural defenses in stressed students . It has been proved that the psychological stress is a good model to study immunity in healthy people. More interestingly the psychological stress is impacting our immune system in the same ways that the physical stress induced by exercising : decrease in natural killer cells, decrease in T lymphocytes and salivary IgA and increase in inflammatory cytokines.
4/Which are the targeted populations for your products? Sports elite? Athletes (casual or professional)?
Sports nutrition market spans from occasional exercisers to hardcore practitioners (Fig. 1). The needs and level of awareness of the different populations concerned differ.
Lallemand Health Solutions has developed a specific probiotic strains portfolio to target the athletes of everyday life, from working mom to marathon runner, with specifically designed, custom formulations. Based on one study on elite athletes , one study on recreational but high-performance athletes  and one study on stressed but healthy students  our probiotic formulation can be adapted to every type of Active People.
5/ Next steps for Lallemand in sports nutrition? Will you still focus on prevention of athlete’s health infection, performance, recovery, mental force?
Research is still ongoing focusing on understanding the mechanisms of action of the strain. Thanks to R&D in formulation, we are able to offer several dosage forms adapted to sports nutrition as for example the probiotics in whey proteins or with the addition of vitamins and minerals.
We are looking beyond immunity, by offering a 3-step program:
Boost your natural defenses by targeting immunity
Trust your gut; increase in body temperature, increase in heart rate and changes in blood flow during physical activity impact the gut and may induce disturbances. Probiotics can help active people by supporting the integrity of the gut barrier during stress.
Never give up; a lot of sportsmen and women suffer from disturbances around a competition, which is due to the increase in work-out frequency but also to the psychological pressure. LHS has conducted a lot of successful research in the Brain-Gut axis and we are able to guide our customer to the right formula.
Thanks to our understanding of athletes’ needs and the mechanism of action of probiotics, we are looking at synergy and complementarity between our strains. For example, Rosell-71 is a B. bifidum that have shown to be a great support in stressful times in healthy students, both on natural defenses and gut health.
We thank Lucie Lingrand for this interview on sports & Nutrition. A lot of opportunities are ongoing in this field. Few companies such as Fitbiomics, Teagasc obtained promising discoveries with analyzing the microbiome from athletes microbiome for new sports probiotics strains.
1 - Spence L, Brown WJ, Pyne DB, Nissen MD, Sloots TP, McCormack JG, et al. Incidence, etiology, and symptomatology of upper respiratory illness in elite athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(4):577-86.
2 - Clancy RL, Gleeson M, Cox A, Callister R, Dorrington M, D'Este C, et al. Reversal in fatigued athletes of a defect in interferon gamma secretion after administration of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Br J Sports Med. 2006;40(4):351-4.
3 - https://www.statista.com/statistics/523546/support-for-goals-in-health-and-wellness-with-nutrition-products-in-us/
4 - Marinkovic DM. Lactobacillus helveticus Lafti® L10 supplementation reduces respiratory infection duration in a cohort of elite athletes: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2016.
5 - Michalickova DM, Kostic-Vucicevic MM, Vukasinovic-Vesic MD, Stojmenovic TB, Dikic NV, Andjelkovic MS, et al. Lactobacillus helveticus Lafti L10 Supplementation Modulates Mucosal and Humoral Immunity in Elite Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2017;31(1):62-70.
6 - Welin A, Henriksson A. Survival of L. acidophilus and L. casei in the human GI tract: Perceived effects on health. Nutrafoods. 2005;4(2-3):9-14.
7 - Eccles R, Herzog A, Happel A. A study on winter infections in students to determine if oral treatment with the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus LAFTI® L10 helps to support the immune system. Unpublished. 2008.
8 - Hamer M, Wolvers D, Albers R. Using Stress Models to Evaluate Immuno-Modulating Effects of Nutritional Intervention in Healthy Individuals. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004;23(6):637-46.