Intensified training increases salivary free light chains in trained cyclists: Indication that training volume increases oral inflammation

Jennifer L.J. Heaney, Sophie C. Killer, Ida S. Svendsen, Michael Gleeson, John P. Campbell

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Periods of short-term intensified training (IT) are often used by athletes during training cycles over the season and undergoing phases of increased physical stress may impact upon the immune system. This study investigated the effects of a period of IT on free light chains (FLCs) in saliva - an emerging immune biomarker of oral inflammation - and matched serum samples in well-trained athletes. It also examined if IT influences basal FLC levels and FLC flux during acute exercise. Highly trained male cyclists (n = 10) underwent a 9-day period of IT; before and after IT participants performed a 1 h time trial (TT) on a cycle ergometer, with blood and saliva samples collected pre- and post-exercise. FLCs were assessed in serum and saliva, and IgG, IgA, IgM and creatinine were also measured in serum. Weekly training volume increased by 143% (95% CI 114–172%), p < 0.001, during IT compared with pre-trial baseline training. Following IT, the cyclists demonstrated higher salivary FLC levels. Both salivary lambda FLC concentrations (p < 0.05, η2 = 0.384) and secretion rates, and kappa FLC concentrations and secretion rates increased after IT. Salivary FLCs concentration and secretion rates decreased in response to the TT following IT (p < 0.05, η2 = 0.387–0.428), but not in response to the TT prior to IT. No significant effects of IT on serum FLCs were observed. There were no significant changes in serum FLCs in response to the TT, before or after the IT period, nor did IT impact upon other serological responses to the TT. In conclusion, IT increased basal salivary FLC parameters and amplified decreases in salivary FLCs in response to acute exercise. Increases in salivary FLC concentration likely reflects alterations to oral inflammation during times of heavy training, and we show for the first time that FLCs may have utility as a marker of exercise stress and oral health status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-187
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Early online date7 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Athletes
  • Exercise
  • Free light chains
  • Inflammation
  • Saliva
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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