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19th April 1999

Food supplement prevents drug damage

A widely available health food supplement may protect against tissue damage caused by drugs often prescribed for arthritis and other conditions, scientists have claimed.
NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are some of the most commonly prescribed medicines in the world for musculo-skeletal conditions such as arthritis, which affects millions of people worldwide.

Up to four per cent of patients taking NSAIDs develop serious gastrointestinal complications, including peptic ulceration and bleeding from the stomach and small intestine.

Many of these complications develop without warning, and the elderly are particularly susceptible.

The agents prescribed to counteract these effects are both expensive and only partially effective, and cannot be given to women who might want to become pregnant, because they are harmful to the developing foetus.

A team of researchers tested the effect of bovine colostrum on the stomach and small intestine of rats and mice who were then given indomethacin, a widely prescribed NSAID.

Milk product

Colostrum is the milk product produced during the first few days after birth.

It is rich in nutrients, antibodies, and growth factors, and is associated with the prevention of gut infections in newborns.

Defatted colostrum from cattle is sold in health food shops and marketed as a general "health promoting" product, particularly suitable for athletes.

Specimens examined under the microscope showed that one millilitre of a colostral preparation reduced the level of tissue damage in the animals by 60%.

The preparation also speeded up the tissue repair process in areas that had been damaged by the NSAID.

The authors suggest that colostrum could be used to treat other inflammatory and ulcerative bowel conditions where treatment is as yet not wholly successful.

They also point out that the division between "food products" and "drugs" for licensing purposes is far from clear, and that products such as these should be termed "nutriceuticals" because of their potent biological activity.

Article courtesy of the BBC News.