Bovine colostrum, often referred to as ‘first milk’, is a potent nutrient-rich fluid produced by female cows in the few days following the birth of their young. This pre-milk fluid is abundant in various bioactive components, including growth factors, immune factors, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Recent research has begun to elucidate the potential benefits of bovine colostrum for children’s health, including strengthening the immune system, aiding digestion, and promoting growth and development.1 This article aims to provide a concise review of the current evidence supporting the potential benefits of a daily bovine colostrum regimen for children.
Immune System Enhancement
Bovine colostrum is particularly rich in immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and other antimicrobial peptides, which may play a crucial role in boosting immunity in children2. Regular consumption of a bovine colostrum supplement has been suggested to enhance immune function, possibly reducing the incidence of neonatal infections and improving recovery.
A 2021 paper reported that bovine colostrum did a better job of increasing antibacterial activity against pathogens than using cow’s milk as a fortifier for breastfeeding newborns. It was then hypothesized that adding bovine colostrum to human milk might be a potential remedy for neonatal sepsis. Colostrum’s benefit was attributed to its high lactoferrin content.3
The additional immune support provided by bovine colostrum allows infants to grow and develop normally and on target, without complications from acute or chronic infections.
Digestive Health Support
The digestive tract of children is continually developing and adapting. The various growth factors in bovine colostrum, such as Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-β) and Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), could potentially aid in the maturation and maintenance of the gut lining, supporting overall digestive health.4
Young children are typically more susceptible to gastrointestinal infections, especially those caused by E. coli and rotavirus, which result in severe diarrhea and dehydration. This makes bovine colostrum an ideal dietary supplement. A 2020 study reported that after 48 hours, the children taking bovine colostrum (versus placebo) had significantly less vomiting and diarrhea, regardless of whether the illness was due to rotavirus or E. coli.5
Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) can be as problematic for children as it is for adults. Bovine colostrum is being evaluated as a potential mediator and means to reduce the severity symptoms and increase overall quality of life.6
Furthermore, children with autism typically exhibit gastrointestinal issues, including gut dysbiosis. Bovine colostrum’s ability to provide generalized gut microbiome support makes it a potential dietary intervention, along with prebiotics and probiotics. A pilot study has shown improved gut function in children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms.7
Growth and Development
Bovine colostrum contains an array of growth factors, including Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-I) and Growth Hormone (GH), which are crucial for growth and development. While the bioavailability and efficacy of these growth factors when ingested orally are still under investigation, preliminary studies suggest that they could potentially aid in childhood growth and development.
A study involving children with non-organic failure to thrive were successfully treated with a bovine colostrum supplement for 3 months; along with known medical and psychological treatments, the children’s body weight increased.8
The potential benefits of bovine colostrum in children’s health are promising, yet more rigorous clinical trials are needed to solidify these findings and determine optimal dosing and duration of supplementation. It is also crucial to ensure the quality and safety of bovine colostrum products, as the nutritional and immunological composition can vary significantly based on various factors such as the cow’s breed, diet, and the processing methods used.
As always, healthcare providers should consider the individual needs and health status of each child before recommending bovine colostrum or any other dietary supplement. It is recommended that parents consult with a healthcare professional before introducing bovine colostrum into their child’s dietary regimen. Supplements offer particular benefit for infants and children who did not receive the benefit of their mother’s own colostrum and breast milk.
Despite these caveats, bovine colostrum holds considerable potential as a functional food to enhance child health. Further research in this area may lead to novel therapeutic approaches for supporting and enhancing child health and well-being.
This article is designed for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided should not be used in place of advice from your child’s pediatrician.
If your child has a known serious allergy, especially one that has previously caused anaphylactic shock, it is of utmost importance that you consult with his/her pediatrician before making any dietary changes. Bovine colostrum does contain some milk proteins, so children with a milk protein allergy should not consume any type of mammalian (cow, goat, sheep) colostrum.
- Sangild, P.T., Vonderohe, C., Melendez Hebib, V., & Burrin, D.G. (2021). Potential Benefits of Bovine Colostrum in Pediatric Nutrition and Health. Nutrients, 13(8), 2551.7.
- Bagwe, S., Tharappel, L. J., Kaur, G., & Buttar, H. S. (2015). Bovine colostrum: an emerging nutraceutical. Journal of complementary & integrative medicine, 12(3), 175–185.
- Gao, X., Li, Y., Olin, A.B., & Nguyen, D.N. (2021). Fortification With Bovine Colostrum Enhances Antibacterial Activity of Human Milk. JPEN. Journal of parenteral and enteral nutrition, 45(7), 1417–1424.
- Playford, R.J., Floyd, D.N., Macdonald, C.E., Calnan, D.P., Adenekan, R.O., Johnson, W., Goodlad, R.A., & Marchbank, T. (1999). Bovine colostrum is a health food supplement which prevents NSAID induced gut damage. Gut, 44(5), 653–658.
- Barakat, S.H., Meheissen, M.A., Omar, O.M., & Elbana, D.A. (2020). Bovine Colostrum in the Treatment of Acute Diarrhea in Children: A Double-Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of tropical pediatrics, 66(1), 46–55.
- Bagwe-Parab, S., Yadav, P., Kaur, G., Tuli, H.S., & Buttar, H.S. (2020). Therapeutic Applications of Human and Bovine Colostrum in the Treatment of Gastrointestinal Diseases and Distinctive Cancer Types: The Current Evidence. Frontiers in pharmacology, 11, 01100.
- Sanctuary, M.R., Kain, J.N., Chen, S.Y., Kalanetra, K., Lemay, D.G., Rose, D.R., Yang, H.T., Tancredi, D.J., German, J.B., Slupsky, C.M., Ashwood, P., Mills, D.A., Smilowitz, J.T., & Angkustsiri, K. (2019). Pilot study of probiotic/colostrum supplementation on gut function in children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms. PloS one, 14(1), e0210064..
- Panahi, Y., Falahi, G., Falahpour, M., Moharamzad, Y., Khorasgani, M. R., Beiraghdar, F., & Naghizadeh, M. M. (2010). Bovine colostrum in the management of nonorganic failure to thrive: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 50(5), 551–554.