Bovine colostrum, the first milk that cows produce after parturition, contains high levels of growth factors and immunomodulatory components. Some healthy and diseased individuals may gain health benefits by consuming bovine colostrum as a food supplement. This review provides a systematic, critical evaluation of the current state of knowledge in this area. Fifty-one eligible studies were identified from the following databases: Medline, Embase, Global Health, the Cochrane Library, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. Studies were heterogeneous with regard to populations, outcomes, and methodological quality, as judged by the Jadad assessment tool. Many studies used surrogate markers to study the effects of bovine colostrum. Studies suggesting clinical benefits of colostrum supplementation were generally of poor methodological quality, and results could not be confirmed by other investigators. Bovine colostrum may provide gastrointestinal and immunological benefits, but further studies are required before recommendations can be made for clinical application. Animal models may help researchers to better understand the mechanisms of bovine colostrum supplementation, the dosage regimens required to obtain clinical benefits, and the optimal methods for testing these effects in humans.
Colostrum is the first milk that mammals produce after parturition, and its composition differs markedly from that of milk produced later in lactation. This fluid has evolved under selective pressure to care for highly sensitive mammalian neonates and is believed to contribute significantly to initial immunological defense in the neonatal period as well as to the growth, development, maturation, and integrity of the neonatal gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Certain effects of colostrum may be species specific, whereas other effects may be shared across species.1,2 Hence, the unique nutritional and biological activities of bovine colostrum that benefit neonatal calves may also benefit specific groups of humans.
© 2014 International Life Sciences Institute
Affiliations: M Rathe and S Husby are with the Hans Christian Andersen Children’s Hospital, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark. K Müller is with the Pediatric Clinic and Institute of Inflammation Research, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark. PT Sangild is with the Clinical and Experimental Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Frederiksberg, Denmark. Correspondence: M Rathe, Hans Christian Andersen Children’s Hospital, Odense University Hospital, Sdr. Boulevard 29, Odense C DK-5000, Denmark. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: +45-30296665.