Colostrum is produced from mammary glands in mammals soon after giving birth. Colostrum is designed to be high in nutrients, antibodies, carbohydrates and protein to give new born infants a nutrition boost when they are first born. Colostrum is thought to play an important role in strengthening an infant’s immune system. The amount of colostrum that is produced from the mother is a relatively small amount because the infant’s digestive system only needs and can handle a small amount. Colostrum also helps the infant have a bowel movement and helps decrease jaundice by clearing out dead red blood cells. Premature infants may especially benefit from colostrum from breast milk. Premature infants’ digestive tract is not fully formed, and colostrum contains growth compounds that can help the digestive tract function properly. Some research suggests premature infants that are formula fed may vomit more and stay longer on tube feeding than premature infants that have colostrum rich breast milk.
Because of colostrum’s health benefits, research studies have looked into the possible health benefits of colostrum for adults. Colostrum supplements are available and are usually derived from milk producing cows. Here are some proposed health benefits from bovine colostrum.
- Immune health. A 2007 study from Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis looked at the results of adults supplementing colostrum at least 2 months and flu prevention. This study found that colostrum supplementation in healthy adults was at least 3 times more effective than vaccines in preventing flu. This suggests that adults can also benefit from colostrum’s immune building antibodies. Colostrum from cows may also help treat or prevent gastrointestinal infections and possibly help speed up wound healing.
- Increase muscle mass. Colostrum is rich in growth factors that stimulate muscle and cartilage growth. A 2001 study from Nutrition studied the effects of colostrum supplement while in an 8 week exercise program in healthy men and women. Subjects participated in at least 3 days per week of aerobic and resistance training and were split into a placebo group (whey protein) and colostrum supplement. Both groups saw a significant increase in body weight, but only the colostrum group showed a significant increase in only lean muscle mass. These results suggest a supplement of colostrum may have additional advantage of increasing muscle mass with an exercise program.
Colostrum may have other health benefits including reducing the risk for ulcers and some sexually transmitted diseases. If interested in colostrum’s health benefits, talk with a health professional for more information and guidance with supplementing colostrum.
- Colostrum and its Benefits: A Review. 2002, Nutrition Research. (http://www.nrjournal.com/article/S0271-5317%2802%2900373-1/abstract)
- The effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in active men and women. Nutrition, 2001. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11312068)
- Prevention of influenza episodes with colostrum compared with vaccination in healthy and high-risk cardiovascular subjects: the epidemiologic study in San Valentino. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost, 2007. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17456621)
By Holly Klamer @ Step Ahead Nutrition