Sport Dietry Supplements Update
Professor Antti Mero, Department of Biology of Physical Activity, University
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· Bovine colostrum is a type of milk secreted
during the first few days after calving.
· The concentration of IGF-l in bovine colostrum is 200-2000
µg/l, whereas normal milk contains >10 µg/l.
· The concentration of immunoglobulins A, G, and M are approximately
100 times higher than in normal milk.
· Bovine colostrum supplementation increases serum IGF-l concentration.
· Dosages of bovine colostrum supplements have ranged from 20
to 60 g/day, taken in a powder form. At the same time, IGF-1 concentrations
(in the supplements) have ranged from 1.7 to 120 µg/day.
· Scientific research concerning bovine colostrum supplementation
is limited. Available studies suggest that supplemented bovine colostrum
increases IGF-l concentrations in blood and may also have positive effects
on human tissues during strenuous training. Dietary bovine colostrum
supplements may also activate immunological defense systems against
microbes on mucous membranes.
· Bovine colostrum is considered a "strong" milk, therefore
it is a legal nutritional supplement.
Bovine colostrum is a type of milk secreted during the first few days
after calving; its importance for the health of calves has been known
for a long time (1). Colostrum contains not only nutrients such as protein,
carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals, but also bioactive components
such as growth factors and antimicrobial elements (2,3). IGF-l is a
major form of the insulin-like growth factor contained in bovine colostrum
and is more potent than IGF-ll. The concentration of IGF-l in bovine
colostrum ranges from 200 - 2000 µg/l (4), whereas normal milk
contains >10 µg/l (5). Bovine colostrum is also an extremely
rich source of immunoglobulins. The concentration of immunoglobulin
G1 (52-87 g/l), G2 (1.6-2.1 g/l), M (3.7-6.1 g/l), and A (3.2-6.2 g/l)
in bovine colostrum is approximately 100 times greater than in normal
Several athletes have used bovine colostrum supplementation for the
benefit of being healthier during training and in-season competition.
It has also been suggested that the increased IGF-l concentration in
blood and muscle may have positive effects on human tissues during strenuous
There are no data available on the prevalence and incidence of use by
athletes and other consumers.
Supplementation of bovine colostrum may increase IGF-l concentrations
in blood and muscle and therefore influence human tissues by increasing
protein synthesis. It is also well known that immunoglobulin-A plays
a major role in immunological protection of mucous membranes, resulting
in the possibility that dietary bovine colostrum may activate immunological
defense systems against microbes on the mucous membranes.
Some evidence exists suggesting that bovine colostrum supplementation
in athletes increases serum IGF-l concentrations (7), improves endurance
performance (8), and has positive effects on health (9). This may have
applications in sport training as well as in daily life.
Scientific research concerning bovine colostrum supplements is limited.
In the study by Mero et al. (1997) male athletes underwent randomized,
experimental training treatments of eight days. The results showed that
serum IGF-l concentrations increased with bovine supplementation. The
similar result was noticed in another study (10) where the supplementation
period in athletes was 14 days. With a longer supplementation of eight
weeks no change was observed in blood IGF-l concentration but maximal
endurance performance was improved (8).
Bovine colostrum is processed and distributed in various forms including
powder, pastilles, and drink.
Dosages of bovine colostrum supplements in scientific studies have ranged
from 25 to 125 ml/day in drink form and 20 to 60 g/day in powder form.
At the same time, daily amounts of IGF-l in the supplements have ranged
from 1.7 to 120 µg/day.
There are no known contraindications to short-term bovine colostrum
supplementation in athletes.
There are no known warnings to short-term bovine colostrum supplementation.
Bovine colostrum supplements are not on the banned drug lists of the
International Olympic Committee or any other sports governing bodies.
Bovine colostrum is considered to be "strong" milk, therefore
bovine colostrum is a legal nutritional supplement.
1. Korhonen, H. Signifigance of colostrum to the health and nutrition
of the newborn calf. Suomen Eläinlääkäri 1978; 84;375.
2. Donovan, S.M., and Odle, J. Growth factors in milk as mediators of
infant development. Annu. Rev. Nutr. 1994; 14;147-167.
3. Reiter, B. Review of the progress of dairy science: antimicrobial
systems in milk. J. Dairy Res. 1978; 45;131-147.
4. Skaar, T.C., Vega, J.R., Pyke, S.N., Baumrucker, C.R. Changes in
insulin-like growth factor-binding proteins in bovine mammary secretions
associated with pregnancy and parturition. J. Endocrinol. 1991; 131;127-133.
5. Collier, R.J., Miller, M.A., Hildebrandt, J.R., et al. Factors affecting
insulin-like growth factor l concentration in bovine colostrum. J. Dairy
Sci. 1991; 74;2905-2911.
6. Mach, J.P., and Pahud, J.J. Secretory IgA, a major immunoglobulin
in most bovine external secretions. J. Immunol. 1971;106; 552-563.
7. Mero, A., Miikkulainen, H., Riski, J., et al. Effects of bovine colostrum
supplementation on serum IGF-l, IgG, hormone, and saliva IgA during
training. J. Appl. Physiol. 1997; 83, 4;1144-1151.
8. Buckley, J.D., Abbott, M.J., Martin, S., et al. Effect of an oral
bovine colostrum supplement (intactTM) on running performance. Proceedings
of the Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport, Adelaide
13-16 October, Sports
Medicine Australia, p.79, 1998.
9. Mero, A., Tiensuu, T., Pakkanen, R., et al. Effects of pastilles
containing bovine colostrum on health of athletes. XXVIth FIMS World
Congress of Sports Medicine, Orlando, Florida, USA, May 30-June 3, Program
and Abstracts, p. 34, 1998.
10. Mero, A., Kähkönen, J., Nykänen, T., et al. Bovine
colostrum supplementation increases
serum IGF-l, IgG, and saliva IgA in athletes during training. Med. Sci.
Sports Exerc. 2000; 32,5;S117.
Degree of Confidence
About the Author
Antti Mero is a professor in Anatomy and Kinesiology. His professional
affiliations include memberships in American College of Sports Medicine
and in the International Society of Bio- mechanics. His main research
area involves human performance, training and nutrition.
© Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. A report from the Sport Dietary
Supplements Update database of the www.eSportMed.com web site.