Colostrum , benefits
Colostrum can be defined as the fluid secreted by a woman’s mammary glands, either at the end of pregnancy or after the birth of the baby.
Photo Daria Shevtsova in Pexels
When the decision to breastfeed is made, colostrum is therefore the first milk that the newborn will absorb.
It is easily recognizable by its yellowish color, linked to the presence of beta-carotene. It is also known as “liquid gold”.
In fact, medical research has highlighted the many benefits of breast milk and colostrum.
The World Health Organization recommends “early initiation” of breastfeeding, directly after birth, so that the newborn can benefit from the “protective factors” in colostrum.1
Colostrum is not secreted in abundance, however, a small amount is sufficient to provide all the nutrients the newborn needs, including protein, vitamins, minerals and, above all, immunoprotective components.
In summary, this process of initiating lactation is found in all female mammals.
Thus, several laboratories are developing dietary supplements based on bovine colostrum, in order to allow as many people as possible to benefit from its alleged properties. It should be noted that bovine colostrum has the most similarities to human colostrum.
Let’s learn now the benefits of human and bovine colostrum, its dosage but also its possible dangers.
What virtues are attributed to human colostrum?
The benefits of colostrum for newborns and babies are essentially linked to the richness of its composition. It should be noted that breast milk and colostrum contain the same elements: what differs is the amount of each substance.
Stimulate the immune system
Colostrum is particularly known for its content of immunoprotective components. That is why some people call it “the natural vaccine.
Therefore, it is particularly rich in leukocytes (more precisely in macrophages and T lymphocytes) and immunoglobulins (mainly IgA, but also IgG and IgM).
Colostrum is also high in protein, which helps activate the immune system. Among these proteins, lactoferrin is the most important, which is effective against various infectious agents (bacteria, viruses and fungal infections).
In addition, it contains other elements that play a role in favor of the immune system:
- Oligosaccharides: are prebiotics that allow the construction of a healthy intestinal flora, capable of fighting infectious agents1 ;
- the various enzymes (there are about 40 of them)2 ;
- and micro RNA3.
Optimize the growth and development of the child
Colostrum is particularly rich in growth factors. It should be noted that these substances have a positive effect on the maturation of the intestines and the nervous, vascular and endocrine systems4.
Contributing to a healthy digestive system
Colostrum has the particularity of being very digestible for newborns. Therefore, it helps establish intestinal transit and evacuate meconium5.
At birth, the baby’s intestinal cells are particularly permeable. However, colostrum contains a significant amount of the so-called trypsin inhibitor of pancreatic secretion. This substance will promote the maturation of the intestinal wall6.
In addition, research has shown that exclusive absorption of colostrum and then breast milk limits the occurrence of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies.
In fact, researchers have observed the onset of the disorder in 3.4% of artificially breastfed infants, compared to 1% of infants who are breastfed.7
A vitamin and mineral concentrate
Like breast milk, colostrum is rich in vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are essential for the proper functioning and development of young children’s bodies.
The nutrient content of breast milk and colostrum can vary from woman to woman, depending on her diet and her body’s reserves.
It should be noted that colostrum and breast milk provide infants with the necessary supply of vitamins, with the exception of vitamins D and K, for which supplements are required.8
Colostrum is said to contain more vitamins A, E and K than mature milk, that is, the milk that the mother synthesizes after one month of breastfeeding.
Properties of the first milk of bovine origin
Many food supplements contain colostrum of bovine origin. While some researchers have reservations, others are convinced of their benefits.
Strengthen your immune system
Composition of bovine colostrum
Like its human analogue, it is full of immunoprotective elements such as..:
- immunoglobulins, which are present in large quantities;
- Lactoferrin, a glycoprotein with antibacterial and antiviral action;
- various enzymes such as lactoperoxidase or lysozyme that essentially fight bacterial infections;
- cytokines, including interleukins, interferon-γ and tumor necrosis factor α ;
- and microRNAs9 specific to immunity.
Its effects against infectious agents have been investigated in several clinical trials. According to the first investigations, the daily administration of 60 g of bovine colostrum during 8 weeks would allow the organism to be more resistant to the infections of the upper respiratory tract10. 10 It should be noted that other clinical trials have reached the same conclusion.
In addition, it would fight Escherichia Coli infections, which cause diarrhea. Two clinical trials in children have shown a decrease in the frequency of loose stools after colostrum administration12.
However, a recent study indicates that its administration does not appear to increase serum concentrations of immunoglobulins, lymphocytes, and IgA and IgG neutrophils. Thus, researchers are advocating for continued clinical trials to identify mechanisms that act on the observed benefits14.
Preserving the digestive sphere
It is suspected that bovine colostrum has the ability to protect the digestive tract.
In fact, research highlights its preventive potential in the context of treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs).
It is true that NSAIDs can cause gastric or intestinal damage. Colostrum supplementation may prevent the walls of the digestive tract from becoming too permeable after taking NSAIDs15.
It would also have beneficial effects for patients who have undergone abdominal surgery. It would combat infectious agents and endotoxins. Would also promote healing of the mucous membranes16.
In addition, many researchers believe that bovine colostrum may be useful in the treatment of certain gastrointestinal disorders such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or short hail syndrome. Its effectiveness would be linked to the richness of its composition. Research should continue to confirm the promising effects observed17.
Improve sports performance
Several researchers have hypothesized that supplementation with bovine colostrum could optimize the performance of both professional and amateur athletes. This effect could be related to its richness in nutrients, but is nevertheless controversial.
In a first randomized controlled study, 29 cyclists absorbed 10 g of bovine colostrum per day for 5 weeks. After testing, researchers finally noted improved function and ventilation18.
A second clinical trial (randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled) involving 35 field hockey players also reported improved performance. The trial group received 60 g of bovine colostrum for 8 weeks19.
According to the analysis of a scientific journal, supplementation with bovine colostrum would induce better recovery after exertion. It is for this reason that the sports results of previous studies have been optimized20.
Treatment of certain dermatological disorders
According to a recent study, bovine colostrum may induce keratinocyte differentiation in humans. Keratinocytes are the cells that make up most of our skin, but also our hair and nails.
In the context of certain skin disorders, the differentiation of these keratinocytes may be altered: their administration would contribute to restore the integrity of the skin barrier21.
To balance type II diabetes?
A clinical trial was conducted with 16 men and women with type II diabetes. For 4 weeks, they absorbed 5 g of bovine colostrum morning and afternoon.
Finally, researchers observed a decrease in postprandial (i.e., after a meal) glycemia, total serum cholesterol, and triglycerides22. 22 However, more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.
The different forms
As a dietary supplement, bovine colostrum is available in powder, capsule or tablet form.
To date, health authorities have not made any recommendations on the dose to be followed when supplementing with bovine colostrum.
In the mentioned researches, the doses are quite heterogeneous, ranging from 10 g to 60 g per day. It should be noted that the duration of the cures varies between 5 and 8 weeks.
If you are considering supplementing your own medical care, don’t hesitate to ask a health professional: he or she can give you the right advice.
Also, be careful in your choice of product and be sure to read the recommendations of the manufacturing laboratory.
Now that we know more about the benefits and dosage of colostrum, let’s look at the possible dangers of such supplementation.
Contraindications and health risks
The various investigations consulted indicate that the intake of bovine colostrum appears to be safe. As a general rule, there are no adverse effects.
However, it is necessary to be vigilant and avoid supplementation with bovine colostrum in case of intolerance or allergy to cow’s milk proteins.
As a precaution, pregnant and nursing women and young children should not take supplements without medical advice.
According to a recent scientific review, the current state of research does not allow us to say with certainty that bovine colostrum is beneficial to the health of people over 35 years of age.
The researchers point out that existing studies may be biased. Therefore, more research is needed so that everyone can benefit from solid information about bovine colostrum, its benefits, dosage, and potential hazards.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk, secreted by the mammary glands of the woman at the end of the pregnancy or at the birth of the newborn.
Why is colostrum important for newborns?
– Stimulates the immune system – Promotes child growth –
Facilitates the maturation of the intestinal wall
Colostrum of human and bovine origin: what are the health benefits?
– Strengthening of the immune system – Protection of the digestive walls – Improvement of sports performance
– Treatment of certain skin diseases – Regulation of blood sugar levels.
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