Bovine Colostrum

Health Care Professional Information

Common Name

Hyperimmune Bovine Colostrum, Bovine Immunoglobulin, Cow milk Colostrum

Clinical Summary

Bovine colostrum is cow's milk secreted during the first few days following calving. It is rich in immunoglobulins, growth factors, cytokines, and confers immune protection to the newborn calf from opportunistic infections. Bovine colostrum has been used as a dietary supplement to treat diarrhea, infections, colitis, and to improve athletic performance. In vitro studies suggest that bovine colostrum has anti-inflammatory (16) and chemopreventive (17) properties.

Results from clinical trials indicate that hyperimmune bovine colostrum, prepared by immunizing cows with the causative agent, is effective in treating diarrhea caused by rotavirus (2), by E. Coli (12) (18), and by Cryptosporidium parvum (3) (4). Preliminary data also suggest that oral administration of bovine colostrum may reduce postoperative endotoxemia during abdominal surgery (5) and postoperative C-reactive protein (CRP)-plasma levels in patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery (6). There is some evidence that bovine colostrum can prevent gastrointestinal damage caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (7) (19) and is effective in treating distal colitis (8).

Bovine colostrum may contain high levels of naturally occuring estrogen (20). Patients with hormone-sensitive cancer and patients who are allergic to dairy products should avoid this product.

Food Sources

Cow's milk (from the first few days after calving).

Purported Uses
  • Colitis
  • Diarrhea
  • GI disorders
  • Immunostimulation
  • Infections
Constituents
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Growth factors
  • Cytokines
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Immune regulating factors
    (1)
Mechanism of Action

Although the high concentration of immunoglobulins may account for bovine colostrum's effects, the exact mechanism is not known. Studies suggest that bovine colostrum improves exercise performance (9) (10) by increasing serum insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and may enhance immune response in humans (11). Others have shown that colostrum derived from cows immunized with C. parvum was effective in the treatment of diarrhea induced by C. parvum in AIDS patients (3) (4). Similarly, colostrum from cows immunized with rotavirus alleviated symptoms of rotaviral diarrhea in children (2). Colostrum also reduced diarrhea associated with E.coli (12). Preliminary data from some studies indicate that oral administration of bovine colostrum may reduce postoperative endotoxemia during abdominal surgery (5) and postoperative CRP-plasma levels in patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery (6). There is also some evidence that bovine colostrum prevents NSAID-associated gastrointestinal damage (7) (19) and is effective in treating distal colitis (8).

Pharmacokinetics

Food can interfere with the activity of bovine immunoglobulin capsules (15).

Contraindications

Allergy to dairy products.

Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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References
  1. Kelly GS. Bovine colostrums: a review of clinical uses. Altern Med Rev 2003; 8(4):378-94.
  2. Mitra AK, et al. Hyperimmune cow colostrum reduces diarrhoea due to rotavirus: a double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Acta Paediatr 1995; 84(9):996-1001.
  3. Greenberg PD and Cello JP. Treatment of severe diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum with oral bovine immunoglobulin concentrate in patients with AIDS. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 1996; 13(4):348-54.
  4. Nord J, et al. Treatment with bovine hyperimmune colostrum of cryptosporidial diarrhea in AIDS patients. AIDS 1990; 4(6):581-84.
  5. Bolke E, et al. Preoperative oral application of immunoglobulin-enriched colostrum milk and mediator response during abdominal surgery. Shock 2002; 17(1):9-12.
  6. Bolke E, et al. Enteral application of an immunoglobulin-enriched colostrum milk preparation for reducing endotoxin translocation and acute phase response in patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery—a randomized placebo-controlled pilot trial. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2002; 114(21-22):923-28.
  7. Playford RJ, et al. Co-administration of the health food supplement, bovine colostrum, reduces the acute non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced increase in intestinal permeability. Clin Sci (Lond) 2001; 100(6):627-33.
  8. Khan Z, et al. Use of the 'nutriceutical', bovine colostrum, for the treatment of distal colitis: results from an initial study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2002; 16(11):1917-22.
  9. Buckley JD, et al. Bovine colostrum supplementation during endurance running training improves recovery, but not performance. J Sci Med Sport 2002; 5(2):65-79.
  10. Buckley JD, Brinkworth GD, Abbott MJ. Effect of bovine colostrum on anaerobic exercise performance and plasma insulin-like growth factor I. J Sports Sci 2003; 21(7):577-88.
  11. He F, et al. Modulation of human humoral immune response through orally administered bovine colostrum. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 2001; 31(2):93-96.
  12. Huppertz HI, et al. Bovine colostrum ameliorates diarrhea in infection with diarrheagenic Escherichia coli, shiga toxin-producing E. Coli, and E. coli expressing intimin and hemolysin. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1999; 29(4):452-56.
  13. MICROMEDEX(R) Healthcare Series. 120. 2004. Thomson MICROMEDEX (last accessed on 3/28/05).
  14. Mero A, et al. Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on serum IGF-I, IgG, hormone, and saliva IgA during training. JAP 1997; 83:1144 -51.
  15. Tacket CO, et al. Lack of prophylactic efficacy of an enteric-coated bovine hyperimmune milk product against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli challenge administered during a standard meal. J Infect Dis 1999; 180(6):2056-9.
  16. An MJ, Cheon JH, Kim SW, et al. Bovine colostrum inhibits nuclear factor kappaB-mediated proinflammatory cytokine expression in intestinal epithelial cells. Nutr Res. 2009 Apr;29(4):275-80.
  17. Masuda C, Wanibuchi H, Sekine K, et al. Chemopreventive effects of bovine lactoferrin on N-butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl)nitrosamine-induced rat bladder carcinogenesis. Jpn J Cancer Res. 2000 Jun;91(6):582-8.
  18. Otto W, Najnigier B, Stelmasiak T, Robins-Browne RM. Randomized control trials using a tablet formulation of hyperimmune bovine colostrum to prevent diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in volunteers. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Apr 1. [Epub ahead of print]
  19. Kim JW, Jeon WK, Yun JW, et al. Protective effects of bovine colostrum on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug induced intestinal damage in rats. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(1):103-7.
  20. Farke C, Rattenberger E, Roiger SU, et al. Bovine colostrum: determination of naturally occurring steroid hormones by Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Feb 23;59(4):1423-7.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: Bovine colostrum has been shown effective in treating diarrhea and infections. There is no evidence that it can be used to treat cancer.

Bovine colostrum is the milk produced by cows for the first several days following birthing. It is rich in antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, and protects the newborn calf from infections. Bovine colostrum has been used as a dietary supplement since last decade. Studies in humans have shown that it has several beneficial effects. Bovine colostrum may contain high levels of estrogen. Individuals with hormone-sensitive cancer or who are allergic to dairy products should avoid bovine colostrum.

Purported Uses
  • Athletic performance
    A few studies in humans suggest that bovine colostrum improves exercise performance.
  • Diarrhea
    Specially produced bovine colostrum has been used in clinical trials with postive results.
  • Infections
    There is evidence from human studies that bovine colostrum increases immune responses.
  • NSAID-associated gastrointestinal disorder
    A few studies showed that bovine colostrum prevents the intestinal damage due to NSAID intake.
  • Cancer
    There is no evidence that bovine colostrum can be used to treat cancer.
Do Not Take If

You are allergic to dairy products.

You have hormone-sensitive cancer.

E-mail your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.