Large amounts of data testify health effects from bovine colostrum on several human diseases and disorders. However, much evidence is still based on clinical trials with a weak methodology, and further controlled studies are needed to establish the full therapeutic potential of bovine colostrum.
Evidence for health effects
Results of Phase I studies on volunteers and Phase II/III studies on patients have demonstrated that the apparent effects of bovine colostrum in preclinical setups and from anecdotal evidence do have therapeutic counterpart in clinical studies on diseases and disorders (Struff & Sprotte, 2008). The existing knowledge especially indicate the use of bovine colostrum as effective in prevention, and to a lesser extent, also treatment, of immunological and microbial gastrointestinal diseases (Korhonen et al., 2000). Bovine colostrum has been used in realtion to diarhhea, mucositis, NSAIDs, preterm infants, athletes, and much more.
Bovine colostrum has a great potential as a therapy to treat various diseases and adverse side effects, whit out altering the physiology of the patient (Thapa, 2005). It is expected that bovine colostrum in the future may have remarkable potential to contribute to the health of specific targeted consumer groups, both as a health promoting diet supplement or as an alternative or supplement to the medical treatment of specific diseases (Korhonen et al., 2000).
Effect from immune-modulating factors
Results indicate that most positive effects from bovine colostrum comes from its immune-modulating capabilities used in the maintenance or improvement of host immune defenses under detrimental conditions, and its ability to aid in the maintenance and functionality of the gastrointestinal mucosa by suppressing gut inflammation and promoting mucosal tissue repair (Rathe et al., 2014). One reason is the relatively resistance of the bovine IgG1 to the conditions in the human gut, which makes it possible to remain active throughout the gastrointestinal tract (Korhonen et al., 2000).
Standardized therapeutic colostrum products
Widespread therapeutic use has been limited because of technological factors affecting the production. However, in recent years, the methods used in the production of colostrum diet supplements have improved dramatically in order to secure the quality of the product, but also to secure a standardized product. Product homogeneity is in particular a strict prerequisite for use in clinical research (Struff & Sprotte, 2008).
Bovine colostrum is natural product and its relative amounts of bioactive compounds depend on multiple factors (Weaver et al., 2000; Kelly, 2003; Godden, 2008). This is unlike many other dietary supplements that have a precisely defined chemically composition, and can thus be expected to be similar irrespective of the brand. Bovine colostrum do not have a typical composition, but all products are tested to secure standardized minimum levels of the beneficial bioactive factors (Kelly, 2003).
The important colostrum milk matrix
Many of the reported studies on the beneficial effects of colostrum on different aspects of human health are based on use of preparations from bovine colostrum. As colostrum contains numerous naturally occurring important nutritional components, and knowing the importance of an intact milk matrix and the synergetic relations between multiple bioactive factors, future research using whole bovine colostrum will most likely confirm and probably even improve the results. It indeed seems to be a treasure trove which if tapped could eventually reveal many health benefits and cost-effective cures in humans (Bagwe et al., 2015).
No severe side effects
So far, no significant health risks have been reported in relation to therapy with bovine colostrum, and it is thus regarded as safe (Korhonen et al., 2000; Rathe et al., 2014). People suffering from lactose intolerance may experience the same symptoms as when ingesting mature milk. However, bovine colostrum contains lesser amounts of lactose than milk, and may therefore be more suitable (Bagwe et al., 2015).
More studies are needed
To support the positive results already obtained through several clinical studies, more research is needed to fully document the beneficial effects of bovine colostrum on human health. Double-blinded, randomized and placebo-controlled studies are wanted, together with systematic reviews and meta-analysis (Rathe et al., 2014; Bagwe et al., 2015).
Bagwe, S., Tharappel, L. J. P., Kaur, G. & Buttar, H. S. (2015) Bovine colostrum: an emerging nutraceutical. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, March 2015 aop.
Elfstrand, L., Lindmark-Månsson, H., Paulsson, M., Nyberg, L. & Åkesson, B. (2002) Immunoglobulins, growth factors and growth hormone in bovine colostrum and the effects of processing. International Dairy Journal, 12, 879-887.
Kelly, G. S. (2003) Bovine colostrums: a review of clinical uses. Alternative Medicine Review, 8(4), 378-394.
Korhonen, H., Marnila, P. & Gill, H. S. (2000) Bovine milk antibodies for health. British Journal of Nutrition, 84(Suppl. 1), S135-S146.
Rathe, M., Müller, K., Sangild, P. T. & Husby, S. (2014) Clinical applications of bovine colostrum therapy: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews, 72(4), 237-254.
Struff, W. G. & Sprotte, G. (2008) Bovine colostrum as a biologic in clinical medicine: A review – Part II. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 46(5), 211-225.
Thapa, B. R. (2005) Therapeutic potentials of bovine colostrums. Indian Journal of Pediatrics, 72(10), 849-852.