Bovine colostrum is the first amount of milk that comes out of the cow that is rich in antibodies, growth factors, cytokines and other nutrients. It contains all these goodies to enable the young calf to improve immunity early in life, such as human breastmilk does for infants.
Bovine colostrum contains immunoglobulin G (IgG), which can bind to many human pathogens, neutralising infection in humans, and can limit gastrointestinal inflammation. The IgG compound also binds to human IgG receptors which enhance phagocytosis, which is the elimination of foreign bacteria. Bovine IgG also assists in optimal functioning of the gastrointestinal barrier, however, this mechanism has only been seen in in-vitro models.
There is some evidence in trials with small athlete numbers that bovine colostrum can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory infections. Jones et al. have found in their systematic review evidence that bovine colostrum supplementation may be effective in preventing the incidence of upper respiratory symptom (URS) days and episodes in adults engaged in exercise training. However, the data were limited due to the high variation in individual study results reporting the duration of URS episodes.
More research is required in this promising area of science, but for now, consumption of bovine colostrum is deemed safe for adults, except if you have a lactose allergy.
- Arwel W Jones, Daniel S March, Ffion Curtis, Christopher Bridle. Bovine colostrum supplementation and upper respiratory symptoms during exercise training: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2016 Jul 26; 8:21.
- Guide to Athletic Supplements
- Supplements and the Athlete's Immune System — some supplements are thought to prevent exercise-induced immune suppression and provide protection from infection.
- Vitamin Supplementation — the good and the bad.
- Antioxidants — all about antioxidant supplementation and performance