Health Benefits of Colostrum
Authors: Ranvir Suvartan Gautam and Navan Sampath Kumar

Colostrum is the first secretion produced after birth and is the specific first diet of mammalian neonates and is particularly rich in immunoglobulins, antimicrobial peptides (e.g. lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase), and other bioactive molecules, including growth factors”

The biological function of bovine colostral immunoglobulins is to provide the newborn calf with adequate passive immune protection against microbial infections. Immunoglobulin preparations designed for farm animals are commercially available, and some colostrum based products are marketed also for humans as dietary supplements. The concentration of specific antibodies against a certain pathogenic microorganism can be raised in colostrum and milk by immunizing cows with this pathogen or its antigen. Advances in bioseparation and chromatographic techniques have made it possible to fractionate and enrich these antibodies and formulate so-called colostral preparations. Recent studies suggest that colostral fractions, or individual peptides present in colostrum, might be useful for the treatment of a wide variety of gastrointestinal conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drug–induced gut injury , chemotherapy induced mucositis and Alzheimer’s disease. Their efficacy in prevention and treatment of various microbial infections has been evaluated in numerous studies. Immune milk preparations have proven effective in prophylaxis against infections caused by a variety of gastrointestinal pathogens. Bovine colostrum is a very appealing natural based product A few commercial immune milk products are already on market and more applications can be expected in the coming years.

Raw colostrum differs from processed colostrum because its immune factors come from just one animal. Processed colostrum comes from a pool of hundreds or thousands of cows/buffaloes and provides a broad spectrum of immune factors. They have a higher range of immunities and it comes from animals that are pesticide, antibiotic and rBST free, and is processed with very low heat. Also processing ensures destruction of pathogens and ensures safe consumption by human beings.

  • Compositional difference between bovine colostrum and milk
Physico-chemical properties Colostrum Milk
Specific gravity 1.056 1.032
pH 6.4-6.5 6.6-6.7
Total solids% 23.9 12.9
Fat% 6.7 4.0
Solid not fat% 16.7 8.9
Total Protein% 14.0 3.1
Casein% 4.8 2.5
Albumin% 0.9 0.5
Lactose% 2.7 5.0
Ash% 1.11 0.74

  • Components of colostrum
  • Immune factors
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Cytokines
  • Lactoferrin
  • Proline-Rich-Polypeptides (PRP)
  • Lysozyme
  • Lactoperoxidase
  • Growth factors
  • Insulin-like growth factor-I and II
  • Epidermal growth factor
  • Transforming growth factors α and β
  • Concentration of immune factors in bovine colostrum and milk
Immune factors Colostrum (g/L) Milk (g/L)
Total IgG 60-100 0.40-0.60
IgG1 52.0-87.0 0.31-0.40
IgG2 1.6-2.1 0.03-0.08
IgM 3.7-6.1 0.03-0.06
IgA 3.2-6.2 0.04-0.06
Lactoferrin 1.5-5.0 0.1-0.42
Lysozyme 0.14-0.7(mg/L) 0.07-0.6(mg/L)
Lactoperoxidase 11-45(mg/L) 13-30(mg/L)
  • Concentration of growth factors in bovine colostrum and milk
Growth factor Colostrum (ngmL-1) Milk(ngmL-1)
Epidermal growth factor 4–325 1–150
Insulin-like growth factor-I 100–2000 5–100
Insulin-like growth factor-II 150–600 5–100
Transforming growth factor-β1 10–50 <5
Transforming growth factor-β2 150–1150 10–70
  • Health benefits of Colostrum
  • Weight Loss
Colostrum supplementation has been shown to help increase lean body mass. Lean mass gains lead to increases in basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the energy your body needs for all its functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, hormone level adjustment and growing and repairing cells. Increased energy expenditure increases weight loss. Colostrum has a role to play in weight loss. Dosage Shing, et al., suggest that 20 to 50 grams a day of colostrum, combined with other high-quality proteins, such as whey and casein, yield the greatest benefits.

  • Allergies
Research has found an ingredient known as praline-rich polypeptide (PRP) in bovine colostrum; it appears to be what is helping decrease the allergy symptoms.

  • Anti-inflammatory Actions of Colostrum
Lactoferrin contained in colostrum has strong antioxidant characteristics which seem to act by two separate mechanisms: (i) binding catalytic iron generated during cell destruction, (ii) and binding bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) which causes a decrease in LPS bioactivity, such as increasing neutrophil O2 production.

Colostrum lactoferrin also inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines.

Proline rich peptides (PRP) in colostrum also act as an oxidative stress inhibitor.

  • Anti-inflammatory Actions of Colostrum
Colostrum has anti-inflammatory activity. • Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) present in colostrum bind with the cytokine receptors which control the inflammatory cytokine cascade, effectively turning off inflammation at its source.

Colostrum also contains interleukin-1, the IL-1 receptor protein, which also acts to inactivate the inflammatory activity of IL-1.

Colostrum may be beneficial in chronic inflammatory diseases, such as various forms of arthritis and Crohn’s disease, which has been linked to gut inflammation.

  • Colostrum and the immune system:
Colostrum provides over 100 times the amount of immunoglobulins as regular milk. Colostrum is also rich in transfer factors that educate and modulate the immune system and successfully teach it to recognize specific antigens. These transfer factors also help coordinate the immune system to be able to recognize the difference between normal tissue and pathological microbes or abnormal tissue growth. These important transfer factors include hydrogen peroxide and immunoglobin G (IgG). The transfer factors from colostrum are able to boost natural killer cell (NK) activity and calm a hyperactive immune system through activating suppressor T cells. This improves the intelligence of the immune system and allows it to function with greater efficiency. These transfer factors also act as a catalytic memory agent for the immune system to alert naive immune cells of an impending danger. These colostrum-based IgG molecules can literally save someone's life who is suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). In this condition, the individual is not able to effectively produce sufficient IgG on its own to combat pathogenic microbes like Cryptosporidium parvum. According to the Health Science Institute's Underground Cures, "colostrum is able to ameliorate or completely eliminate the clinical symptoms of those suffering from cryptosporidiosis."

  • Improves gut condition
Colostrum’s properties have shown to be effective against a host of gut problems like Candida albicans and diarrhoea . Consuming colostrum powder completely reduces the diarrhoea. Exposure of gut walls to Years of antibiotic use combined with additive-filled diets can weaken the defences in your digestive system and allow pathogens to enter the body and cause disease. This condition which precedes these conditions is known as leaky gut syndrome. It’s a very common health disorder in which the intestinal lining is more permeable than normal. Studies have found that large spaces between the cells of the gut wall let viruses, bacteria, fungi and other toxic material into the bloodstream. A separate report found even more serious incidences where a leaky gut can trigger allergies, leading to auto-immune diseases, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, alopecia areata, thyroiditis, vasculitis, colitis and diabetes. Colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins and inflammation components that help seal off the gut wall..

  • Athletic Benefits of Colostrum Supplements
Research suggests that to enhance supporting performance, a minimum dose of 20 mg/day is required, and this may take up to 8-weeks to have a beneficial effect. It is not clear whether lower doses (e.g. 10 g/day) would also be effective

About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing PhD in Dairy Chemistry from National Dairy Research Institute Karnal. I have also worked with Mother Dairy as a Senior Executive for 2 years