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An observation of a double blind placebo controlled study monitoring healthy athletes consuming a commercial preparation of nutraceuticals.

This brief report is an observation of a collaborative study between the company Metabolic Research and an Australian Professional Ice Hockey Team the Newcastle North Stars. The North Stars is one of the premier teams in the Australian ice hockey league. These athletes train in a wide range of environmental conditions which according to observations of the coaching staff leads to a high incidence of colds and influenza like symptoms, which in turn affect performance. The North Stars' management, seeking to improve immune function of players during peak season training decided to test the Metabolic Research product Metabolic Cell-Support* (MC-S) to see if it could reduce the incidence of colds and influenza. I was invited to independently control the study and to analyse data.

Intensive training of athletes can lead to impaired immune response and leave them open to viral infection such as colds and influenza, better known as upper respiratory tract infections (Gleeson 2007). One of the challenges for today's athlete is to train at an effective level which allows them to compete at optimum performance but not to over train. Treading the fine line between optimum training and over training differs from individual to individual but if immune support could be utilised during periods of intensive training and stress, the incidence of impaired immune function may be reduced.

The use of medicinal mushrooms and herbs for improved immune function dates back to ancient China. Of the 140,000 species of mushrooms estimated to be on earth only approximately 10% are known, 2000 of these are edible species and about 700 are known to possess significant pharmacological properties (Wasser 2002). Seemingly only a few of the 700 have been explored more thoroughly in human trials. In the past decades extensive research has gone into studying the immune potential of medicinal mushrooms. The polysaccharides found in these medicinal mushroom are potent substances with antitumor and immunomodulating properties (Wasser 2002). Interest is now focused on the combining of immunoceuticals such as those found in medicinal mushrooms and herbs to create a mix of proven compounds inducing multiple stimuli to the immune system leading to a stronger effect (Smith 2002). This effect could be synergistic.

The product MC-S is produced in Australia and is a standardised compound combining 3 medicinal mushrooms (Lentinula edodes mycelium, Ganoderma lucidum, Trametes versicolor) and the herb Astagalus membranaceus all of which contain polysaccharides of varying molecular weights. Ascorbic acid has been added to assist in the absorption process. The published material available on the individual components comprising MC-S is highly encouraging, exhibiting immunostimulating properties and anticancer effects both in vitro and in vivo. Several purified mushroom polysaccharides have been in clinical use in Japan, China and the US for several years with no reports of short term or long term adverse effects (Smith 2002). MC-S actively proliferated immune cells in vitro (Clark 2007). This would suggest an in vivo immunomodulatory effect is possible.

A 6 week double blind study of 15 healthy subjects (7 test and 8 placebo controls) was carried out. All participants were accepted on a strictly voluntary basis. Subjects ingested 2 tablets twice daily of either MC-S or placebo. There was no other alteration to their normal daily routine except to complete a questionnaire designed to evaluate if there was any difference in the number of days experiencing symptoms of winter related illnesses such as colds, influenza or secondary infections between the two groups.

The analysis showed the total number of days in the 6 week period the MC-S group experienced symptoms of colds, influenza or secondary infections was 24 with an average of 3.43 [+ or -] 2.76 days per test participant. This was significantly lower than the placebo control group total of 72 days with an average of 9.0 [+ or -] 4.95 days per control participant. A statistical analysis using two-sample t-test with equal variances produced a significant P value of 0.0208. The median number of days that the MC-S group reported symptoms was 4 days. Using the Mann-Whitney non-parametric test this was significantly different from the controls with a median number of 9 days (p= 0.0199).

These results suggest the blend of nutraceuticals could be of use in reducing the incidence of winter related illness. Though only a small study this promising result has stimulated interest to propose a larger more comprehensive investigation in the future.


Clark DA. Adams MC. 2007. Using commercial nutraceutical mixes as immune stimulants: an in vitro proliferation study using Metabolic Cell-Support TM on non-stimulated human lymphocytes. Aust J Med Herbalism 19:3 in press.

Gleeson M. 2007. Immune function in sport and exercise. J Appl Physiol. Epub ahead of print. Monograph. 2003. Astragalus membranaceus Altern Med Rev 8;1:72-7.

Smith JE. Rowan N. Sullivan R. 2002. Medicinal mushrooms: Their therapeutic properties and current medical usage with special emphasis on cancer treatments. Special report commissioned by Cancer Research U.K. <http://sci.cancerresearchuk. org/labs/med_mush/med_mush>

Wasser SP. 2000. Medicinal mushrooms as a source of antitumor and immunomodulating polysaccharides. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 60;258-74.

DA Clark

Human Health Research Australia

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Author:Clark, D.A.
Publication:Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2007
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