Colostrum is a type of breast milk produced by mammals, including humans. Before breast milk is released, it is usually thicker in consistency and contains high levels of antibodies. This high concentration of nutrients in the colostrum is aimed at promoting the growth and health of newborn mammals, which is why it is the most nutritious form of milk (1).
For humans, the consumption of colostrum by newborns is very much encouraged; apart from the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months and 2 years by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), mothers are as well encouraged to give skin-to-skin support while breastfeeding newborns for the colostrum few hours after delivery.
The colostrum is said to have various benefits for the newborn as they get older (2).
What about the adults? Does adult consumption of bovine colostrum have the same effect as mother-to-newborn colostrum?
Bovine colostrum is more nutritious than regular milk. It contains more protein, fat, carbohydrates, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, B, and E than regular milk. Due to this, studies have found that the consumption of bovine colostrum by adults is useful in boosting the immune system as well as improving gut health (1, 3).
The presence of lactoferrin in colostrum contributes to the link between colostrum and immunity. Lactoferin is a protein that occurs naturally in the body. It is a very versatile protein because it is a bi-lobed protein that can bind an iron atom (4). This transferrin-family iron-binding glycoprotein is an important component of the mammalian immune system. As a result, it provides lactoferrin with protective effects ranging from direct antimicrobial to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer (4).
Apart from this, colostrum also contains antibodies. Antibodies are proteins, also known as immunoglobulins, used by the immune system to fight bacteria and viruses. Bovine colostrum is rich in the antibodies IgA, IgG, and IgM (1, 2). This is also essential for fighting pathogens and improving the immune system.
Since bovine colostrum is loaded with nutrients that fight disease and promote growth, it is able to boost immunity, treat infections, and offer more related benefits to humans throughout their lives. Thus, the consumption of bovine colostrum may have the same effect as human colostrum; it is just that the absorption of colostrum from a bovine to a human body is different, but with all the spectacular ingredients that colostrum possesses, it may possess the same effect as boosting immunity!