The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise on saliva IgA, total protein and alpha-amylase

N P Walsh, A K Blannin, A M Clark, L Cook, P J Robson, M Gleeson
Journal of Sports Sciences 1999, 17 (2): 129-34
The aim of this study was to assess the effect of an acute bout of high-intensity intermittent exercise on saliva IgA concentration and alpha-amylase activity, since this type of training is commonly incorporated into the training programmes of endurance athletes and games players. Eight well-trained male games players took part in the study. They reported to the laboratory after an overnight fast and performed a 60-min cycle exercise task consisting of twenty 1-min periods at 100% VO2max, each separated by 2 min recovery at 30% VO2max. Unstimulated whole saliva was collected over a 5-min period into pre-weighed tubes and analysed for total protein, saliva IgA and alpha-amylase. The saliva flow rate ranged from 0.08 to 1.40 ml x min(-1) at rest and was not significantly affected by the exercise. The performance of the intermittent exercise bout did not affect the saliva IgA concentration, but caused a five-fold increase in alpha-amylase activity (P<0.01 compared with pre-exercise) and a three-fold increase in total protein concentration (P<0.01). These returned to pre-exercise values within 2.5 h post-exercise. It has been suggested that IgA concentration should be expressed as the ratio to total protein concentration, to correct for any concentrating effect due to evaporative loss of saliva water when breathing through the mouth (as in strenuous exercise). The present study clearly demonstrates that this is not appropriate, since there is an increase in salivary protein secretion rate immediately after exercise (571+/-77 microg x min(-1) compared with 218+/-71 microg x min(-1) pre-exercise; P<0.05). The increased saliva alpha-amylase activity after exercise may improve the protective effect of saliva, since this enzyme is known to inhibit bacterial attachment to oral surfaces. The saliva alpha-amylase secretion rate was lower immediately pre-exercise than at any other instant, which may have been due to anticipatory psychological stress, although the subjects were all familiar with interval exercise. This emphasizes the need for true resting non-stressed control conditions in future studies of the effects of exercise on saliva constituents.

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