The Benefits of Colostrum

Colostrum is a milky fluid that is produced by the breasts of humans, cows and other mammals for the first few days following childbirth. When discussed as a supplement, it is normally bovine colostrum that is being looked at, which has a number of impressive health benefits.

Health Benefits of Colostrum

It appears that the main role of colostrum is to provide newborn infants with crucial vitamins and nutrients as well as protection against a range of conditions once they have left the womb. Colostrum is rich in numerous proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. But more impressively, it contains high levels of antibodies which are 100X greater than those found in regular cow’s milk.

It was initially suspected that these antibodies may be useful in preventing intestinal infections in humans. However, research has so far failed to back this up. Nevertheless, the substance is still highly beneficial in terms of its pure nutrient density. It is also generally considered to be broadly beneficial for the immune system, especially for those under a lot of stress – such as athletes.

Hyperimmune Bovine Colostrum

More interestingly, researchers have managed to use colostrum in treating AIDS-related diarrhea and diarrhea associated with graft versus host disease caused by bone marrow transplants. Here, cows are given vaccinations against specific disease-triggering bacteria. These vaccinations then cause the cows to develop specific antibodies that can help to fight the organisms and those are then passed into the colostrum, resulting in an alternative method for administering vaccinations.

However, there is some uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of this method (1).

Bovine Colostrum for Athletes

Bovine colostrum is currently very popular among athletes thanks to its high levels of IGF1. IGF1 is ‘insulin-like growth factor’, a metabolite that slows the breakdown of tissue following exercise and which speeds up the synthesis of protein into muscle. As a result, it may be able to improve the lean muscle mass of athletes. However, studies are somewhat mixed when it comes to just how effective colostrum is on increasing muscle mass.

Any additional immune benefits are of course an excellent added benefit that can help to improve training and performance indirectly. An additional potential benefit, is that bovine colostrum may help to improve the strength of the gut wall, thereby preventing some gut issues that can otherwise affect athletes.

Like whey protein, colostrum is commonly converted into a powder that can be added to milk. Often it is used to reinforce the benefits of protein shakes.

It’s key to note however that colostrum is not a ‘miracle’ substance by any measure and isn’t likely to be a game changer in the gym. More studies really need to be conducted before it can be recommended wholly and as ever, you’re still going to need work hard in the gym. But it’s certainly one to watch…

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