Food Technologists Discover the Benefits of Mother’s Milk


There has been a welter of research into bovine and human colostrum recently and the area is set to see a wave of food innovation. The scientific evidence is mounting that colostrum can play a really important role in promoting gut health and in supporting the immune system. All mammals produce colostrum in the first hours and days after birth. It is a rich source if immunoglobulins, anti microbial peptides and growth factors. It is a nutritional cocktail deigned to sustain the young child in the first few critical weeks of life.

In July, Pharming announced that their rigorous research study supported by Dutch Food and Nutrition Delta had concluded that their recombinant human Lactoferrin was safe. Human Lactoferrin is a natural protein that helps to fight and prevent infections. It is present in large quantities in mother’s milk and plays an important role in the defence system of infants. They are currently looking for partners in the food industry who can make use of this dairy ingredient in their product formulations. This is set to herald a new wave of ‘smart’ products aimed at improving health and there is a great deal of research and development activity in this area.

Bovine colostrum, as opposed to human, is collected only after the calf has had their fill and is fully satisfied so it is not the case that the calf loses out. The colostrum is usually frozen immediately when collected on farm and then it is spray dried to create the colostrum powder. The product has many advocates in academia, for instance Professor Ray Playford, eminent gastroenterologist from Plymouth University, has published research showing dairy colostrum to be effective for colitis and inflammatory bowel disorders as well as preventing gut damage caused by the use of NSAID pain-killers including Ibruprofen.

Bovine colostrum has long been used by athletes to help them train harder, recover faster and fight gut and immune system disorders that can occur when in intensive preparation for competition and races. The British Olympic Cycling team, The Tour de France winning Sky team, top triathletes including Sweden’s Gustav Larsen and the Welsh triathlon squad all train using colostrum as does tennis star Elena Baltacha and Rugby World Cup winner Phil Greening.

There is a solid body of evidence to support the functional claims of colostrum. Matt Lovell, Elite Sports Nutritionist and advisor to British Rugby team says Colostrum is valuable support to your nutrition during periods of intense training. It offers background immune support and is a great benefit to digestive health and wellness. I use colostrum for both athletes and the general public.

It is this interest from general consumers, which is exciting interest in the R&D departments of global dairy companies.

Traditionally colostrum has been sold in tubs and packets to the athletics fraternity but shows signs of coming into more mainstream formats. Brands such as Maximustle and My Protein have all launched products, following in the wake of colostrum pioneers Neovite. Neovite, long associated with the growth of colostrum in the UK have been operating in the European market for over a decade and have seen sales grow steadily as it is starting to be seen as a serious food ingredient by product developers globally. The market for colostrum is ramping up, for instance the California market for fresh colostrum is about $300,000 per year.

Heating changes the nature of colostrum so as a food ingredient it needs to be treated gently but is well suited to incorporation in liquid beverages or with other functional powders. For diary product developers, colostrum is fast becoming a cost-effective tier of treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, IBS, recurrent respiratory infection, wound healing, muscle loss, chronic fatigue and auto-immune disorders.

Colostrum, a taste we all forgot, and revered by the ancients, seems to set to have a long future in human health and dairy product development.

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