New study highlights quality variations in commercial colostrum products

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Colostrum capsules © Getty Images / Kristina Shlimovich
Colostrum capsules © Getty Images / Kristina Shlimovich

Related tags colostrum Quality control

The bioactivity of commercial bovine colostrum samples may vary significantly, says a new study partially funded by colostrum-based nutrition company, PanTheryx, which the company says aims to shine a spotlight on sourcing and handling.

The quality of colostrum products is usually assessed by measuring the total protein concentration and immunoglobulin levels, according to scientists from University of Plymouth (UK), Queen Mary University of London (UK), and PanTheryx, but these measures do not take into account ‘bioactivity’, they argued, because they do not assess colostrum’s pro-reparative activity.

Instead, colostrum products should also be analyzed for their ability to stimulate the early phase of repair in human gut and their ability to stimulate cell migration and growth, they argued. Both measures are vital processes required to cover a gastrointestinal insult area and to replenish lost cells. 

Data from 20 commercial 100% bovine colostrum products purchased in the US, Denmark, Germany, UK and New Zealand, indicated that there was a six-fold difference between the highest and lowest levels of bioactivity. 

The differences are likely due to when the colostrum was collected (ie. was it collected on day of the birth of the calf or three days later) and how the colostrum was stored and shipped.

Dr Raymond Playford, clinical gastroenterologist and lead researcher on the study, said: “This is an important discovery that not all colostrum products are equal. Producers need to ensure that their product is both biologically active and consistent and not rely solely on immunoassays of IgG and growth factors for quality control, especially prior to using the ingredient in clinical trials.”

Colostrum market



George Stagnitti, EVP R&D PanTheryx, recently spoke with Danielle Masterson on the NutraCast​. Click HERE​ to listen.

The global bovine colostrum market’s value stood at $2.6 billion in 2019, according to Transparency Market Research. With immune support front and center at the current time, the market is expected to reach $4.3 billion by 2027.

There are currently over 6,000 studies highlighting the science of bovine colostrum and new clinical cohorts being conducted every year to explore its applications for human health.

Approximately 30 clinical trials are currently underway across the world for a range of conditions in both infants and adults.

“Most adult clinical trials examining the use of colostrum for gut disorders used a dose of between 20-40g colostrum powder/day,” ​explained the researchers. “However […] optimal dosage and duration of bovine colostrum supplementation have not been established.”

“It also highlights a serious confounding factor in that investigators base dosage on the weight of the dry powder of colostrum rather than establishing equivalent bioactivity, which may be influenced by breed, herd, milking times, and formulation,” ​they added. “This leads Rathe​ [2014 Nutr. Rev.​] to conclude that simple expressions of dosage in weight units are not sufficiently informative and some form of bioactivity standardization needs to be undertaken.”

Commercial sample analysis

To assess the quality and bioactivity of commercial colostrum products, Dr Playford and his co-workers analyzed 20 samples from across the world.

The researchers reported clear differences across the tested products’ key measures of promoting and maintaining gastrointestinal barrier integrity and function.

“The commercial colostrum samples used for these studies are currently considered food products for marketing legislation purposes,” ​wrote the researchers. “However, as they contain potent biologically active molecules, have been shown to be biologically active in a variety of in vivo models of injury and are being used for medicinal purposes, they should also be considered as nutraceuticals (a term combining nutrition and pharmaceutical).

“Legislation requires tight quality control on conventional medicines where major differences in bioactivity per standard weight of product due to processing or other factors would be considered unacceptable.

“To interpret results from clinical trials accurately, especially when comparing results from different investigators, the colostrum being used needs to be appropriately quality controlled. Prior to undertaking a clinical trial, we suggest the bioactivity of the colostrum is checked, as relying on weight of powder, protein content, or growth factor immunoassay is ineffective. In addition, researchers need to ensure that the test colostrum product is not exposed to even transient temperature rises above 40°C,” ​they concluded.

Source: PLoS One
Published online, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234719
“Marked variability in bioactivity between commercially available bovine colostrum for human use; implications for clinical trials”
Authors: R.J. Playford, M. Cattell, T. Marchbank

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