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Salivary diagnostic markers in males and females during rest and exercise

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Deb DulsonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2017 The Author(s).Background: Saliva is a useful diagnostic tool for analysis in sports, exercise and nutrition research, as collection is easy and non-invasive and it contains a large number of analytes affected by a range of physiological and pathological stressors and conditions. This study examined key salivary electrolytes and stress and immune markers in males and females at rest and during exercise. Methods: Unstimulated whole saliva from 20 healthy, recreationally active participants (8 males and 12 females) was analysed for flow rate, osmolality, sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-), secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), α-amylase activity and cortisol during both rest and moderate intensity (70% peak power) cycling exercise in a randomised crossover design. Each trial lasted 60 min and sampling was carried out at 15 and 45 min after the start of the trial. Saliva was collected using the gold-standard drool method; participants were required to provide at least 1 mL sample over 2 or 3-min period. Results: Females showed a greater response to steady-state exercise stress than males, with significant increases in osmolality (P < 0.001), α-amylase activity (P = 0.001) and secretion rate (P = 0.023) and SIgA secretion rate (P = 0.023), with trends for an increase in K+ (P = 0.053) and decrease in Cl- (P = 0.067). There were no differences between rest and exercise for any salivary analytes in males. In addition, females showed a trend for higher levels of cortisol than males at both rest (P = 0.099) and exercise (P = 0.070), as well as a higher heart rate (P < 0.001) and greater ratings of perceived exertion (P < 0.001) during the exercise trial. The coordination of the two stress response pathways (α-amylase vs cortisol) was positive in males (r = 0.799; P = 0.017) yet negative in females (r = -0.475; P = 0.036). Conclusions: Males and females show a markedly different response to steady-state exercise stress as measured in unstimulated whole saliva.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rutherfurd-Markwick K, Starck C, Dulson DK, Ali A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition

Year: 2017

Volume: 14

Online publication date: 10/08/2017

Acceptance date: 01/08/2017

Date deposited: 12/06/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1550-2783

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s12970-017-0185-8

PubMed id: 28811748


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