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Drug screening services

LGC has been working with supplement companies since 2001 to provide quality assurance testing of sport supplements, thus enhancing confidence that these products are not contaminated by substances (e.g. steroids, stimulants) which are banned in sport. The Informed-Sport quality standard is now recognised by the national governing bodies across all major sports.

Fitness markers

LGC has a range of tests for athletes to provide analysis of markers in sweat and saliva (and ultimately urine and blood) which will act as indicators of health, fitness and general wellbeing. Kits are supplied with a pre-paid envelope for posting to the lab. Reporting of results will be customised to the needs of the individual, club or Authority as appropriate (but may also be accessed via a personalised and secure web portal, specifically designed to allow the selected markers to be tracked, monitoring changes to wellbeing and fitness over time).
Two kits/testing suites are currently available: saliva and sweat.

Saliva - monitoring levels of cortisol, testosterone and immunoglobulin A (IgA).
Sport scientists have long been using salivary markers as indicators of the stress response to exercise, both in studies examining the impact of acute exercise on immunoendocrine responses and to monitor athletes over the course of a competitive season. In conjunction with analysis of stress and mood states, salivary measures can provide useful information to evaluate the impact of training and competition on the athlete’s immune and endocrine systems. The measurement of salivary IgA, cortisol and testosterone has proved useful in this regard. Stressed athletes exhibit depressed levels of IgA and an elevated cortisol/testosterone ratio.

Cortisol/testosterone ratio - As athletes become more stressed through repeated match play, training and inadequate recovery the secretion of the adrenal glucorticoid hormone cortisol is increased whereas that of the sex steroid testosterone falls. The ratio of cortisol to testosterone is therefore a sensitive index of performance-related stress.
ImmunoglobulinA - Heavy schedules of training and competition appear to increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), such as sore throats, colds, chest infections and flu. Insufficient recovery from these illnesses can lead to recurrent infectious episodes that could cost an athlete days or even weeks of vital training and could ultimately make or break a successful season for an individual or a team. Although there are several possible mechanisms for these increased episodes of infection, it has been suggested that URTI may result from a reduction in the levels of the main antibody found in saliva, tears and mucous: immunoglobulin A (IgA). Saliva and mucosal secretions protect the lining of the oral cavity through a mechanical washing effect and play an important role as the first-line of defence against potential pathogens entering via the mouth. IgA acts to prevent the replication of viruses and inhibits viral and bacterial attachment to the mucosal lining of the mouth, throat and upper respiratory tract. Monitoring salivary IgA levels can therefore be an early predictor of an individual who is at greater risk of being susceptible to URTIs.

Sweat - monitoring levels of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium.
It is well known that nutrient levels in sweat, and the sweat rate, vary considerably from athlete to athlete. In addition, the total loss of liquid (and therefore nutrients) will also be affected by levels and duration of exertion, and by changes in climate (e.g. between summer and winter, or if exercising in humid versus temperate climates).

Research across Sport Science has indicated that losses of the following nutrients are of prime importance:
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium

Sodium – (in ionised form, and closely related to the associated chloride ion) a key element of electrolyte balance balances throughout the body. Excessive loss of sodium through training (perhaps up to 1-2g per litre of sweat, with losses of 1-2% of body mass through sweat not unusual in heavy excessive) may lead to a reduction in blood sodium levels - enough to cause nausea, headaches, muscle cramps etc. Under extreme conditions, it is possible for athletes to lose in excess of the recommended daily intake of sodium through sweat.

Potassium – another key salt with sweat, but with a reduced tendency for loss through sweating (held within individual cells, unlike sodium), and also stored in muscle fibres along with glycogen. It plays a critical role by helping transport glucose into the muscle cell. Potassium also interacts with both sodium and chloride to control fluid and electrolyte balance and assists in the conduction of nerve impulses. When glycogen breaks down to supply energy for your workouts, muscle cells are depleted of potassium. As a result, there is a greater concentration of potassium in your blood and greater quantities are lost in sweat and urine. Potassium deficiency symptoms are nausea, slower reflexes, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, cramping, and rapid heart rate.

Magnesium – a key nutrient, involved in numerous processes that affect muscle function (e.g. oxygen uptake, energy production, electrolyte balance). There is evidence that suggests that exercise affects the metabolism and utilisation of magnesium, and also that magnesium supplementation can improve physical performance of individuals that are deficient in magnesium. Extreme deficiency of magnesium may result in muscle weakness, cramping or spasms.

Calcium – excessive loss of calcium may reduce bone density. Whilst sweat-based losses relative to recommended daily intakes are less than for sodium (see above), excessive exercise leading to major calcium loss may justify supplementation.

The salt content of so-called 'isotonic' drinks also varies considerably. Therefore, using this simple kit, individual rehydration/supplement strategies can be established to match high and low salt sweaters to high and low salt rehydration products. These requirements may change depending on the time of year or geographic location.

Whilst the link between salt levels and cramping in athletes is inconclusive at this time, there is certainly evidence to suggest a correlation. In any event, this test will permit an individualised 'balanced' approach to exercise and supplementation – replacing sweat losses with a carefully selected diet.

In December 2010 LGC acquired HFL Sport Science. All services offered by HFL now form part of the LGC Group. To read more on this story, please visit LGC news.


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