Sports Dietary Supplement and Colostrum


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 milk (6).


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 training.


There are no data available on the prevalence and incidence of use by athletes and other consumers.

Chemical Mechanism

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.

Clinical Evidence

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

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.


  • Korhonen, H. Signifigance of colostrum to the health and nutrition of the newborn calf. Suomen Eläinlääkäri 1978; 84;375.
  • Donovan, S.M., and Odle, J. Growth factors in milk as mediators of infant development. Annu. Rev. Nutr. 1994; 14;147-167.
  • Reiter, B. Review of the progress of dairy science: antimicrobial systems in milk. J. Dairy Res. 1978; 45;131-147.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mach, J.P., and Pahud, J.J. Secretory IgA, a major immunoglobulin in most bovine external secretions. J. Immunol. 1971;106; 552-563.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 web site

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