The nutritional value of milk is largely undisputed. Colostrum, the first milk produced by mammals after parturition, has been thoroughly studied on recent years, after confirming its superior nutritional and protective value when compared to milk. Initially, colostrum was used clinically as a vehicle for passive immunity transfer. It is now known colostrum contains cytokines and other protein compounds of very low molecular weight that can act as Biological Response Modifiers (BMRs), which intervene locally in most biological processes. This article reviews the composition and current clinical use of colostrum, and describes the use of a colostral derivative in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Review and Proposal Milk has always been considered a very important food–and food source– worldwide, as it supplies important nutrients in addition to carbohydrates, proteins and fat, which together contribute to the optimal functioning of the body. Maternal milk, in comparison to formula milk, has a far superior nutritional value. Colostrum has a well acknowledged crucial value for the survival of the animal species that cannot receive immunoglobulins through the placenta.1
In recent years, due to the favorable effects of colostrum ingestion in newborn infants and animals, there has been a growing interest in determining the composition of this naturally occurring substance and determining its clinical use, in animals and humans as well. Much has also been investigated about the composition of human colostrum, and it is interesting to note the similarity in elements and functions with those of bovine colostrum. This review will specifically address data on the contents of human and bovine colostrum that constitute the basis for their immunomodulatory capacity, the current use of colostrum, and will describe a new derivative of colostrum and its clinical use.
Human Colostrum is known to be highly immunoreactive, both in the humoral and cellular systems. In 1993, Grosvenor et al. stated “many hormones, growth factors and bioactive substances present in the maternal organism are present in colostrum and milk, often exceeding concentrations that occur in maternal plasma.”2 The presence of immunoglobulin containing neutrophils and macrophages (especially IgA, and lesser amounts of IgM and IgG), and peroxidase activity identical to serum myeloperoxidase was documented recently in human colostrum.3,4 It is known that secretory IgA (sIgA) purified from human colostrum causes in vitro inhibition of local adherence of enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) to Hep-2 cells because sIgA responds to a plasmid-encoded outer membrane protein implicated as the EPEC adherence factor acting as a receptor analogue.
Thus, colostrum provides passive immunity for the newborn.