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Seasonal changes in haematology, lymphocyte transferrin receptors and intracellular iron in Ironman triathletes and untrained men

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Abstract

We investigated whether 12 months of chronic endurance training would affect haematology, CD4+ lymphocyte transferrin receptor (CD71) expression, CD4+ intracellular iron and the incidence of upper respiratory tract illnesses (URTI) in Ironman triathletes compared with untrained men. Resting venous blood samples were taken from 15 Ironman triathletes (TR 30 ± 5 year) and 12 untrained men (UT 30 ± 6 year) every 4 weeks for 12 months. Erythrocyte, leukocyte and platelet concentration, haematocrit, haemoglobin (Hb) and mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCHC) were measured with a full blood count. CD4+ lymphocytes were analysed for changes in transferrin receptor (CD71) expression (CD4+CD71+), and intracellular iron (Fe3+), by flow cytometry. The TR group had significantly lower Hb, MCHC, and platelets for 10, 9 and 11 months, respectively; lower CD4+CD71+ (3 months) and Fe3+ (1 month), respectively; higher CD4+CD71+ (1 month); a higher lymphocyte count for 4 months. There were no between-group differences in other variables. In both groups haematology and lymphocytes increased during spring, early summer and winter and decreased during late summer/late winter, with an inverse relationship between CD4+CD71+ and Fe3+. The TR group reported significantly fewer URTI than the UT. Low Hb and MCHC suggest an iron deficiency which may affect triathlete performance. Monthly changes in lymphocytes, CD4+CD71+ and Fe3+ suggested that spring, summer and late autumn are associated with CD4+ proliferation. There may be seasonal relationships between haematology and lymphocyte function, independent of endurance training, possibly affecting performance but not the incidence of URTI.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Professor Gregory Gass, formerly of Griffith University and Bond University, Queensland Australia, for his contribution to this research.

Conflict of interest

This research did not receive funding from NIH, the Wellcome Trust, the HHMI or any other funding body.

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Correspondence to Suzanne Broadbent.

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Communicated by Susan Ward.

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Broadbent, S. Seasonal changes in haematology, lymphocyte transferrin receptors and intracellular iron in Ironman triathletes and untrained men. Eur J Appl Physiol 111, 93–100 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-010-1635-z

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