Colostrum is nature’s perfect first food. It is the pre-milk substance that is produced by all mammals at the time of giving birth. Colostrum is a mixture of immune and growth factors as well as important nutrients, all designed to activate a newborn’s immune system, ensuring the health, vitality, and growth of the newborn. Numerous studies show that colostrum and its components continue to exert important biological activities when given to adults, so that its beneficial effects extend well beyond the neonatal period of development.*

Colostrum is a rich source of both essential and non-essential amino acids, as well as essential fats, including phospholipids, which enable colostral protein protection and easy absorption in the gut by forming liposomes around them.

Colostrum contains various immune system factors, such as immunoglobulins (Ig), colostral polypeptides (CPs), lactoferrin (LF) and many others. Colostral polypeptides (CPs) have the unique ability to balance the immune system. The majority of immunoglobulin fraction is represented by Immunoglobulin G (IgG). Immuno-supplementation with bovine antibodies has shown to be an effective means of providing local protection to the gastro-intestinal tract.*

The beneficial bioactives found in bovine colostrum

While bovine colostrum has been used for thousands of years in human medicine, its components also offer an ideal bioactive backbone for developing new oral therapeutics that can modulate our gut and systemic biology. Below is an overview of the components of colostrum and their potential therapeutic benefit.

Immune Factors

  • Colostrum contains IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, IgE1
  • These immunoglobulins naturally target a range of human pathogens, including Rotavirus, Shigella, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and other viral and bacterial pathogens and multicellular parasites
  • The immunoglobulins in colostrum can be further enhanced to target additional pathogens through vaccinating donor animals which provide hyperimmunized colostrum
  • Colostrum contains numerous cytokines including IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, IFN-γ, and IL-1ra2
  • These small peptide molecules are important mediators in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses3
  • In the newborn, cytokines play an important role in combination with the ingested maternal immunoglobulins and non-specific antibacterial components of colostrum4
  • They are major regulators of epithelial cell growth and development, including intestinal inflammation and epithelial restitution following mucosal damage5

Broad Spectrum Antimicrobials

  • Lactoferrin is an 80 kDa iron-binding glycoprotein with antiviral and antimicrobial activity
  • Shown to inhibit the growth of specific microbes including Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Shigella, dysenteria, and Streptococcus mutans6,7,8
  • Antiviral effects against herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1), human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) and human cytomegalovirus9,10
  • Plays an important role in iron uptake in the intestine and in the activation of phagocytes and immune responses3
  • Immune mediator regulating target cells responses, including those involved in oxidative stress and systematic inflammatory responses
  • Clinical studies show lactoferrin can inactivate LPS and inhibit dermal inflammatory cytokine production, indicating lactoferrin may have a potent anti-inflammatory effect11
  • An enzyme that helps to support immune function by attacking specific bacteria and fungi
  • Lysozyme interacts with other components in colostrum, like lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin and IgA, resulting in a synergistic blend of antimicrobials3
  • The natural substrate of this enzyme is the peptidoglycan layer of the bacterial cell wall and its degradation results in the lysis (breaking down of the cell wall) of the bacteria12
  • A major antibacterial enzyme found in colostrum
  • Primary function is in the defense against microbial infection
  • Next to its antimicrobial and antiviral activity, degradation of various carcinogens and protection of animal cells against peroxidative effects have been reported13
  • Inhibits bacterial metabolism via the oxidation of essential sulfhydryl groups in proteins14
  • Shown to inactivate polio virus, vaccinia virus, and HIV-13715,16

Growth and Repair Factors

Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGF-I and IGF-II)
  • The most abundant growth factors in colostrum
  • Primary structures are highly conserved across species and have identical sequences in humans17
  • Heat and acid stable and widely distributed mediators of cell growth, development, and differentiation18
  • Amino acid sequence of purified bovine IGF-I is identical to that of human IGF-I19,20
  • Dietary IGF-I can stimulate cell proliferation in the gastrointestinal tract21,22
  • Dietary IGFs may have a direct effect on the epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal tract and can be absorbed into circulation23
Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)
  • Plays an important role in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation and differentiation
  • Stimulates the repair process at the site of inflammation24
  • Plays an important role in preventing bacterial translocation and stimulating gut immunity25,26
  • Anabolic growth factor with possible differentiation-inducing factors for intestinal epithelium of newborns, suggesting possible applications of recombinant IGF and IGF analogs for repair of damaged gastrointestinal tissues27
  • Supplementation with EGF may aid in the recovery of traumatized gastric and intestinal tissues28
Transforming Growth Factor Alpha (TGF-α)
  • Plays a complementary role with TGF-β in controlling the balance between cell proliferation and differentiation in the intestinal epithelium4,29
  • Systematic administration of TGF-α stimulates gastrointestinal growth and repair, inhibits acid secretion, stimulates mucosal restitution after injury and increases gastric mucin concentrations30
  • Upregulation of TGF-α expression has been shown to occur in the gastrointestinal mucosa at sites of injury, supporting a role of TGF-α in mucosal growth and repair31
  • Major physiological role of TGF-α is to act as a mucosal-integrity peptide, maintaining normal epithelia function in the non-damaged mucosa32
Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-β)
  • Plays an important role on the regulation of the immune system23
  • Stimulates proliferation of some cells, especially in connective tissue, whereas it acts as a growth inhibitor for other cells3
  • During injury or disease, it acts in concert with EGF to stimulate cell proliferation33
  • Key player in stimulating restitution, the early phase of the repair process during which surviving cells from the edge of a wound migrate over the denuded area to reestablish epithelial continuity4
  • TGF-β blocks the destruction of newly synthesized cells by regulating the synthesis of proteases
  • Both TGF-α and TGF-β are helpful in the repair and integrity of epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract24
Oligosaccharides and Glycoconjugates
  • Oligosaccharides are defined as carbohydrates which contain between three and ten monosaccharide residues, covalently linked through glycosidic bonds and are divided into two broad classes, neutral and acidic34
  • Oligosaccharides act as a prebiotic as they are neither digested nor absorbed in the upper intestinal tract of humans but are delivered intact into the colon where they can act as nutrients for colonic microflora34
  • Specific oligosaccharides support the growth of beneficial bacteria and modulate the microbiome35
  • Oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates in milk and colostrum are soluble receptor analogues of epithelial cell-surface carbohydrates and can therefore compete with virulent bacteria and viruses for attachment sites34
  • Sialylated oligosaccharides have been shown to inhibit binding of pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli in neonates and many other pathogens36,37
  • Adhesion to epithelial cells by ulcer-causing human pathogen Heliobacter pylori is inhibited by sialylated oligosaccharides38


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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.