Bovine Colostrum Supplementation and Exercise Performance

Potential Mechanisms

Abstract

Bovine colostrum (BC) is rich in immune, growth and antimicrobial factors, which promote tissue growth and the development of the digestive tract and immune function in neonatal calves. Although the value of BC to human adults is not well understood, supplementation with BC is becoming increasingly popular in trained athletes to promote exercise performance. The combined presence of insulin-like growth factors (IGF), transforming growth factors, immunoglobulins, cytokines, lactoferrin and lysozyme, in addition to hormones such as growth hormone, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone and glucocorticoids, would suggest that BC might improve immune function, gastrointestinal integrity and the neuroendocrine system, parameters that may be compromised as a result of intensive training. A review of studies investigating the influence of BC supplementation on exercise performance suggests that BC supplementation is most effective during periods of high-intensity training and recovery from high-intensity training, possibly as a result of increased plasma IGF-1, improved intramuscular buffering capacity, increases in lean body mass and increases in salivary IgA. However, there are contradicting data for most parameters that have been considered to date, suggesting that small improvements across a range of parameters might contribute to improved performance and recovery, although this cannot be concluded with certainty because the various doses and length of supplementation with BC in different studies prevent direct comparison of results. Future research on the influence of BC on sports performance will only be of value if the dose and length of supplementation of a well-defined BC product is standardized across studies, and the bioavailability of the active constituents in BC is determined.

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Table I
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Acknowledgments

Cecilia Shing has previously received funding from Numico Research Australia to investigate the influence of colostrum supplementation on exercise performance. Lesley Stevenson was formerly employed by Numico Research Australia. Denise Hunter has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review. No funding support was received for the preparation of this manuscript.

The authors would like to thank Sonya Marshall of Bond University for input into early stage drafts of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cecilia M. Shing.

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Shing, C.M., Hunter, D.C. & Stevenson, L.M. Bovine Colostrum Supplementation and Exercise Performance. Sports Med 39, 1033–1054 (2009). https://doi.org/10.2165/11317860-000000000-00000

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