Key Components of Bovine Colostrum

The Science of Colostrum

Colostrum is a mixture of immune and growth factors as well as important nutrients, all designed to activate a newborn’s immune system, ensuring their health, vitality, and growth. Numerous studies show that colostrum and its components continue to support important biological activities when given to adults and more mature animals, so that its benefits can extend well beyond the neonatal period of development. The components of bovine colostrum offer an ideal bioactive backbone for developing new therapeutics that can modulate the gut, immune response, and systemic biology. Below is an overview of the components of colostrum and their potential therapeutic benefit.


Also known as antibodies, immunoglobulins are used by the immune system to identify, attack and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses. Absorption of immunoglobulins is essential for the passive immunity of neonatal mammals after birth.Colostrum contains IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, IgE1

  • IgG: bovine colostrum has more IgG than all the other immunoglobulins found in colostrum. It provides a large portion of immunity against invading pathogens. IgG also helps to initiate the cascade of other immune functions.
  • IgA: strategically resides in areas like the gastrointestinal, respiratory and urogenital tracts to play a critical role in mucosal immunity by preventing specific pathogens from colonizing.
  • IgM: the first responder to pathogens entering the body. Attacks bacteria, rendering them inactive.
  • IgE: plays an important role in allergenic reactions and aids in the response to parasites in the digestive system.
  • IgD: functions closely with IgM to send a signal to B cells, thus activating them into action. Once activated, they begin to participate with other immunoglobulins to bolster the body’s immune system. Also help in creating specificity to antigens.


Colostrum contains many of these biological response modifiers. These can be protein, peptide or glycoprotein signaling molecules that are used in cellular communications. Cytokines have a specific role as regulators of epithelial cell growth and development, including intestinal inflammation and epithelial restoration following mucosal damage. They are also important mediators in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses.

  • Colostrum contains numerous cytokines including IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, IFN-γ, and IL-1ra2
    These small peptide molecules are important mediators in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses3
  • In the newborn, cytokines play an important role in combination with the ingested maternal immunoglobulins and non-specific antibacterial components of colostrum4
  • They are major regulators of epithelial cell growth and development, including intestinal inflammation and epithelial restitution following mucosal damage


One of the antimicrobial components of the immune system that fights bacteria and fungi in the body, Lactoferrin binds metal ions which are necessary bacterial metabolites, making them unavailable for bacterial development. Lactoferrin has been shown to inhibit the growth of specific microbes, like E. coli and Salmonella. Lactoferrin has additionally demonstrated antiviral effects.

  • Lactoferrin is an 80 kDa iron-binding glycoprotein with antiviral and antimicrobial activity
  • Shown to inhibit the growth of specific microbes including Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Shigella, dysenteria, and Streptococcus mutans6,7,8
  • Antiviral effects against herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1), human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) and human cytomegalovirus9,10
  • Plays an important role in iron uptake in the intestine and in the activation of phagocytes and immune responses3
  • Immune mediator regulating target cells responses, including those involved in oxidative stress and systematic inflammatory responses
  • Clinical studies show lactoferrin can inactivate LPS and inhibit dermal inflammatory cytokine production, indicating lactoferrin may have a potent anti-inflammatory effect11


Lysozyme is an antibacterial enzyme that helps to support the immune system by disrupting the cell walls of harmful bacteria. It has been shown to work synergistically with lactoperoxidase, IgA and lactoferrin offering an enhanced antimicrobial effect.

  • An enzyme that helps to support immune function by attacking specific bacteria and fungi
  • Lysozyme interacts with other components in colostrum, like lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin and IgA, resulting in a synergistic blend of antimicrobials3
  • The natural substrate of this enzyme is the peptidoglycan layer of the bacterial cell wall and its degradation results in the lysis (breaking down of the cell wall) of the bacteria12


A major antibacterial enzyme found in colostrum, Lactoperoxidase protects the lactating mammary gland from infections. It has also been shown to work synergistically with lactoferrin for enhanced antibacterial effect. Some viruses, like polioviruses, are sensitive to lactoperoxidase’s toxic effects on viruses.

A major antibacterial enzyme found in colostrum

Primary function is in the defense against microbial infection

Next to its antimicrobial and antiviral activity, degradation of various carcinogens and protection of animal cells against peroxidative effects have been reported13

Inhibits bacterial metabolism via the oxidation of essential sulfhydryl groups in proteins14

Shown to inactivate polio virus, vaccinia virus, and HIV-13715,16

Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGF-I and IGF-II)

The most abundant growth factors of bovine colostrum. These proteins are single chain polypeptides with amino acids. They play an important role in childhood growth and have an anabolic effect in adults.

  • Primary structures are highly conserved across species and have identical sequences in humans17
  • Heat and acid stable and widely distributed mediators of cell growth, development, and differentiation18
  • Amino acid sequence of purified bovine IGF-I is identical to that of human IGF-I19,20
  • Dietary IGF-I can stimulate cell proliferation in the gastrointestinal tract21,22
  • Dietary IGFs may have a direct effect on the epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal tract and can be absorbed into circulation23

Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)

Plays an important role in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation and differentiation. The EGF family of growth factors can help modulate development of the epidermis, mammary gland, and gut.

  • Stimulates the repair process at the site of inflammation24
  • Plays an important role in preventing bacterial translocation and stimulating gut immunity25,26
  • Anabolic growth factor with possible differentiation-inducing factors for intestinal epithelium of newborns, suggesting possible applications of recombinant IGF and IGF analogs for repair of damaged gastrointestinal tissues27
  • Supplementation with EGF may aid in the recovery of traumatized gastric and intestinal tissues28

Transforming Growth Factor Alpha (TGF-α)

Plays a complementary role with TGF-β in controlling the balance between cell proliferation and differentiation in the intestinal epithelium4,29 and has been shown to stimulate gastrointestinal growth and repair.

  • Systematic administration of TGF-α stimulates gastrointestinal growth and repair, inhibits acid secretion, stimulates mucosal restitution after injury and increases gastric mucin concentrations30
  • Upregulation of TGF-α expression has been shown to occur in the gastrointestinal mucosa at sites of injury, supporting a role of TGF-α in mucosal growth and repair31
  • Major physiological role of TGF-α is to act as a mucosal-integrity peptide, maintaining normal epithelia function in the non-damaged mucosa32

Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-β)

TGF-beta plays a crucial role in tissue regeneration, cell differentiation, formation of bone cartilage, and regulation of the immune system.

  • Plays an important role on the regulation of the immune system23
  • Stimulates proliferation of some cells, especially in connective tissue, whereas it acts as a growth inhibitor for other cells3
  • During injury or disease, it acts in concert with EGF to stimulate cell proliferation33
  • Key player in stimulating restitution, the early phase of the repair process during which surviving cells from the edge of a wound migrate over the denuded area to reestablish epithelial continuity4
  • TGF-β blocks the destruction of newly synthesized cells by regulating the synthesis of proteases
  • Both TGF-α and TGF-β are helpful in the repair and integrity of epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract24

Oligosaccharides and Glycoconjugates

Oligosaccharides are defined as carbohydrates which contain between three and ten monosaccharide residues, covalently linked through glycosidic bonds and are divided into two broad classes, neutral and acidic34 Oligosaccharides act as a prebiotic as they are neither digested nor absorbed in the upper intestinal tract of humans but are delivered intact into the colon where they can act as nutrients for colonic microflora3

  • Specific oligosaccharides support the growth of beneficial bacteria and modulate the microbiome35
  • Oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates in milk and colostrum are soluble receptor analogues of epithelial cell-surface carbohydrates and can therefore compete with virulent bacteria and viruses for attachment sites34
  • Sialylated oligosaccharides have been shown to inhibit binding of pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli in neonates and many other pathogens36,37
  • Adhesion to epithelial cells by ulcer-causing human pathogen Heliobacter pylori is inhibited by sialylated oligosaccharides38

Additional Macro & Micronutrients within Colostrum:

Colostrum provides energy and nutrients. It is rich in energy-giving ingredients like carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Carbohydrates are naturally available in colostrum, along with vitamins and minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Included are vitamins A, B2, B9, B12, and D. Vitamins are essential organic nutrients that, like minerals, work as catalysts or co-factors in biological functions. They are important for such processes as retinol development, transportation of important matter across cellular walls, and processing other nutrients.

Essential minerals & ions include calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Minerals act as catalysts in body functions such as metabolism and ATP formation. Minerals are also important building blocks of bone and teeth.

From simple sugars to complex oligosaccharides, carbohydrates are an important energy source and used in cellular recognition.

Amino acids consist of a large number of compounds that are the building blocks of proteins through the linking of peptide bonds. Amino acids are important for nutrition and muscle development.

Colostral protein provides essential nutritional components for muscle and tissue development. Help to provide energy.

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