Health

Is colostrum the best new supplement for your smoothie?

Generally reserved for babies, ‘mother’s milk’ is being heralded as the latest health hero – and not just for infants.

For the time-poor among us, making a smoothie for breakfast ensures we get out the door on time and fill up on the nutrients needed to start the day right. 

Beyond the standard mix of milk and banana, it seems there is no end to what you can whiz up in your morning concoction. From chia seeds and bee pollen to greens powders and collagen, a myriad of additions have hit the mainstream in recent years. 

And now there’s another supplement vying for a spot in your blender: Colostrum. 

Cow’s milk revamped

Often referred to as ‘first milk’, colostrum is produced by humans and some animals within the first days of giving birth. It’s a vital source of nourishment and immunity for newborns, equipped with essential nutrients and antibodies. 

Beyond its role in infant health, adults are increasingly turning to colostrum for its potential health benefits, with celebrities and wellness gurus leading the charge. So is everyone adding breastmilk to their breakfast? Well, no, not exactly. Dietary colostrum supplements are derived from the initial milk produced by cows, not humans. 

“It’s quite distinct from mature milk,” explains Accredited Practising Dietitian and the Program Director of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of South Australia, Dr Evangeline Mantzioris. “It’s rich in macro and micronutrients and contains immune products, antimicrobial products, and growth factors to support the growth of the calf and reduce the risk of infection.” 

Benefits of colostrum powder

Generally consumed in powder or capsule form, devotees claim it has positive effects when it comes to immune support, gut health, muscle growth and managing inflammation. 

Rich in proteins, growth factors and bioactive compounds like lactoferrin, bovine colostrum is prized for its ability to promote gut health as well as alleviate inflammation associated with autoimmune disorders. 

Research is limited, but a 2021 study found bovine colostrum might improve gastrointestinal issues, and another study, published in the Journal of Functional Foods, found it could also decrease the risk of upper respiratory tract infections. 

“Some human studies have shown that bovine colostrum may stimulate the growth of intestinal cells and strengthen intestinal walls which can lead to a reduction in intestinal permeability,” explains Dr Mantzioris. 

Intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut) is when the gaps between intestinal cells allow bacteria and toxins to pass through, which has been linked to some inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune disorders. “The health benefits of bovine colostrum are due to a combination of nutrients and the immune factors present.” 

Who should steer clear of colostrum powder?

Despite its promising benefits, colostrum does have potential downsides. While evidence suggests it’s safe for most people, there’s limited research to support claims, and colostrum contains milk proteins that may trigger adverse reactions for those with dairy allergies. Like other animal products, it raises ethical and environmental concerns and quality can differ depending on where it’s sourced. It can also be expensive and doesn’t negate other dietary decisions. 

“There’s no point taking this if your diet is not healthy, balanced and varied,” warns Dr Mantzioris. And always check in with your GP or healthcare provider before integrating new supplements into your routine.

The information in this article is general nature. For specific health advice consult your health practitioner. 

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