Bioactivity of bovine colostrum may depend on quality sourcing, says recent study


A new study published in PLOS ONE found colostrum products on the market deliver widely different bioactivity based on several quality factors.


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A new study published in PLOS ONE found colostrum products on the market deliver widely different bioactivity based on several quality factors, variations in heat exposure, and how quickly colostrum was collected following the birth of a calf. Bioactivity is important in order to deliver consistent health benefits. 

“This is an important discovery that not all colostrum products are equal,” Raymond Playford, clinical gastroenterologist and lead researcher, said in a press release. “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 is a milk that is produced in cows, and all mammalian mothers, during the first few days after birth. Although research shows colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins, antimicrobial peptides, and growth factors, there are no studies on product bioactivity. As a result, the study—partially funded by PanTheryx, Inc. (Boulder, CO), a colostrum supplier—examined 20 different commercial colostrum products in vitro bioactivity and in vivo bioassay to assess the ability of colostrum to reduce gastric damage in rats. 

There were six-fold differences in pro-proliferative and migratory activity among the 20 products. Comparison of most- and least-active samples from in vitro studies showed two- to three-fold differences in their ability to reduce gastric injury. Tyrphostin reduced pro-migratory and proliferative activity by 23% and 55%, respectively. TGF-β neutralization reduced migratory activity by 83%, but it did not affect proliferation. Heating the colostrum powder to 50°C did not affect immunoactivity, but it decreased bioactivity by greater than 40%. Milking studies following the birth of calves showed high bioactivity during the first and second milking on day 0, but a 77% reduction by day 3. 

“Colostrum collection on the first day is the gold standard,” stated George Stagnitti, executive vice president of research and development at PanTheryx, in a press release. “As the world’s largest producer of bovine colostrum, we work hard to ensure a consistent, high-quality day-one product that is highly bioactive to maximize the benefits of immune and gut health.” 


  1. Playford RJ et al. “Marked variability in bioactivity between commercially available bovine colostrum for human use; implications for clinical trials” PLOS ONE, vol. 15, no. 6 (2020)
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