Bovine colostrum has recently gained popularity on the health scene as a supplement for athletes and non-athletes alike, and for good reason. Some of the touted benefits of colostrum include increased immunity, improved gut health and boosted athletic performance and recovery. So, what exactly is colostrum?

Colostrum is the first milk produced by a mammal immediately after giving birth and for several days post parturition. Referred to as a perfect food, bovine colostrum provides a calf with full nutrition including protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. In addition to nutrition, colostrum also provides the added benefit of immunological properties, which can be lifesaving to a calf in those early days.

NUTRITION

Nutritionally, the biggest difference found between colostrum and the mature milk of any mammal is an increased concentration of protein.

Bovine colostrum contains approximately 15 grams of protein per 100 ml.1 Compared to mature cow’s milk, which contains just 3.5 grams per 100 ml, the concentration of protein is much higher in colostrum. Colostrum also contains higher levels of casein vs. whey when compared to mature milk.

Immunoglobulins, or antibodies, are proteins that are an integral part of the immune system and help to fight off bacteria and viruses. Immunoglobulins make up 70-80% of the total protein found in colostrum. IgG, IgA and IgM are the most prevalent immunoglobulins in bovine colostrum.2

Lactoferrin is another important protein found in high concentrations in bovine colostrum. Lactoferrin’s ability to sequester iron means that it can help to fight off infections, which contributes to the immune boosting properties of colostrum.3

Another type of protein that is in abundance in bovine colostrum is growth factors. Growth factors such as insulin growth factor 1 and 2 (IGF-1 and IGF-2) are hormones that stimulate growth and promote healing. Research has found levels of these growth factors to be anywhere from 5-20 times higher in bovine colostrum compared to mature cow’s milk.4

In addition to the increased protein, bovine colostrum is higher overall in calories and fat compared to mature cow’s milk. Micronutrients such as magnesium, the B vitamins and vitamins A, C and E are all higher in colostrum as well.1 Carbohydrates, or lactose, however, are found in much lower concentrations in colostrum compared to mature milk.

BENEFITS
Immunity
It’s estimated that bovine colostrum contains antibody levels 100 times greater than that of mature cow’s milk.1 In fact, prior to the creation of penicillin, bovine colostrum was commonly used to treat bacterial infections. Research has shown that the immunoglobulin IgG in bovine colostrum can prevent upper respiratory infections in both infant and adult humans and ear infections in human infants.2

Gut Health
One of the health benefits of bovine colostrum is its ability to strengthen the cells of the intestinal wall, preventing allergens and other particles to permeate out of the gut and into the rest of the body. One study found a reduction in frequency of adverse GI symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders when supplemented with bovine colostrum.5 Bovine colostrum has also been shown to help prevent the increase in intestinal permeability often caused by the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).6

Athletic Performance
Bovine colostrum supplements have shown increased health benefits to professional athletes and heavy exercisers. Supplementation may be especially beneficial during times of high-intensity training and is likely linked to increased plasma levels of insulin growth factor 1.7 Recovery times may also be improved in athletes, specifically runners, who supplement with bovine colostrum.8

Bovine colostrum with all of the important proteins it contains has many benefits for the gut, immune system, and athletes alike.

Learn more about IVL's ImmuneBody Colostrum now!

References

  1. Godhia ML, Patel N. Colostrum – its Composition, Benefits as a Nutraceutical – A Review. Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science Journal. 2013;1(1):37-47.
  2. McGrath BA, Fox PF, McSweeney PLH, Kelly AL. Composition and properties of bovine colostrum: a review. Dairy Sci Technol. 2016;96(2):133-158.
  3. Manzoni P. Clinical Benefits of Lactoferrin for Infants and Children. J Pediatr. 2016;173 Suppl:S43-S52.
  4. McGrath BA, Fox PF, McSweeney PLH, Kelly AL. Composition and properties of bovine colostrum: a review. Dairy Sci Technol. 2016;96(2):133-158.
  5. Sanctuary MR, Kain JN, Chen SY, et al. Pilot study of probiotic/colostrum supplementation on gut function in children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0210064.
  6. Playford RJ, MacDonald CE, Calnan DP, et al. Co-administration of the health food supplement, bovine colostrum, reduces the acute non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced increase in intestinal permeability. Clin Sci . 2001;100(6):627-633.
  7. Shing CM, Hunter DC, Stevenson LM. Bovine Colostrum Supplementation and Exercise Performance. Sports Med. 2009;39(12):1033-1054.
  8. Buckley JD, Abbott MJ, Brinkworth GD, Whyte PBD. Bovine colostrum supplementation during endurance running training improves recovery, but not performance. J Sci Med Sport. 2002;5(2):65-79.