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Early milk enhances athletic performance, study

By Helen Glaberson , 30-Mar-2011

Milk produced by cows 48 hours after giving birth can improve athletic performance by massively reducing gut permeability, claims new research.

Early milk could also have positive implications for heartstroke sufferers, said the researchers at Aberystwyth University.

According to the findings, published in Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, gut leakiness was reduced by about 80 per cent for participants given a drink of ‘early milk’ two weeks before a trial, despite the same effort and temperature rise as the control group.

Under standard conditions, gut leakiness had increased by 250 per cent.

Otherwise known as dairy colostrum, early milk is commercially available and usually obtained from organic dairies. The scientists claim it is abundant in bioactive components including immune, growth and antimicrobial factors.

Gut benefits

The findings suggest that colostrum may have real value in helping athletes perform, said Ray Playford, a medical professor at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry who also collaborated on the research.

Athletes’ performance can be seriously diminished due to gut symptoms during heavy exercise, according to the professor. “We have been looking at natural approaches to reduce this problem as the range of products that athletes can legitimately take is very limited,” he added.

Gut disorders induced by exercise are common in runners, according to the scientists. The body’s response to increased permeability is to clear the gut contents, giving rise to problems such as diarrhoea to avoid toxins from gut organisms entering the bloodstream. Such toxins can contribute to symptoms associated with heatstroke and result in damage to internal organs.

Methodology and findings

Athletes were asked to run for 20 minutes at 80 per cent of their aerobic maximum. At the end of the exercise, changes in the subject's gut leakiness were measured using a urine sample – also determined were changes in the athletes’ core temperature.

In addition the study identified changes in gut barrier function. Gut cells were cultured at normal 37 degrees body heat and at 39 degrees to replicate the temperature after exercise.

According to the scientists, the death rate of gut cells also rose at the higher temperature, however, when colostrum was added to the culture medium, the rise in cell death rate was reduced by two thirds.

Source: Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology

Volume 300, Issue 3, Pages 477-484, March 2011

“The nutriceutical, bovine colostrum, truncates the increase in gut permeability caused by heavy exercise in athletes”

Authors: T. Marchbank, G. Davison, J. R. Oakes, M. A. Ghatei, M. Patterson, M. P. Moyer, R. J. Playford

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