According to researchers in Poland, bovine colostrum supplements strengthened the immune systems of athletes and helped them continue their demanding training schedules with more regularity.

The study, which was conducted on professional football (soccer in the U.S.) players, found the colostrum supplements provided the notable benefits by reducing inflammation. The findings confirm earlier studies that came to similar conclusions.

Bovine colostrum—typically referred to generically as just “colostrum” in the supplementing sphere—is the first milk produced post-partum by mammals.

Colostrum is compositionally distinct from mature milk in that it is super-charged with specific nutrients, including growth factors and antibodies, needed to help newborns develop strong immune systems during the first few days after birth.

After studies demonstrated that these potent benefits could be passed on to humans, colostrum has become popular as a nutritional supplement.

Study details

Though a small study involving just 28 athletes, the research met the high industry standards of a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study. The study findings were published in Nutrients in November, 2023.

To conduct the study the researchers recruited male footballers from the Polish III league Club, Chemik Moderator Bydgoszcz. Study participants received either colostrum supplements or a placebo for the study period of 24 weeks.

The researchers noted that football players were chosen since it is a sport that is characterized by “physiologically demanding, high-intensity exercise.” The repetitive and eccentric characteristics of football movements can induce muscle damage accompanied by leakage of muscle enzymes and proteins into the body’s circulatory system. This “leakage” then leads to oxidative stress, inflammation, and a decrease in muscle performance.

“The characteristics of muscle damage after games can disrupt the regeneration process, yet given the schedule of elite players, recovery periods do not allow for optimal restoration to pre-match levels, increasing risk of muscle injury,” the researchers wrote in the study intro.

At the conclusion of the study the researchers reported that supplying athletes with colostrum consistently reduced inflammation during the trial, and at the testing conducted at the end of the trial period. It was also noted that the inflammation reduction in the test subjects, when compared to the placebo group, was greatest after six months of supplementation.

The primary inflammation marker used by the researchers to determine levels of inflammation was “TNF secretion.” TNF was measured regularly during the trial, with testing always being conducted after a three-hour recovery period following exercise.

What is TNF?

TNF—or tumor necrosis factor—is a protein in the human body that is essential for proper immune function and healing.

Since it is one of the inflammatory chemicals that increase in circulation during an exercise-induced immune response, it can be measured to determine the level of inflammation a person is experiencing.

TNF works by causing inflammation, which is actually needed to protect the body in some circumstances. However, when the body creates too much TNF, or if it doesn’t go away when the body stops needing it, chronic inflammation develops. When this happens, it can cause a person to have an autoimmune or inflammatory disease—such as rheumatoid arthritis.

TNF also makes tumors die from the inside out. Some health providers call this process “necrosis.” That’s where “tumor necrosis factor” gets its name. Scientists discovered its role in tumors before its role in others aspects of biology were known.

Affect on performance

Since the indications of a high TNF include redness, swelling and muscle aches—and even fever in extreme cases—it greatly affects ongoing performance.

The Polish researchers noted that previous research found that colostrum helped control the inflammatory response “by preventing iron-mediated free radical injury at inflamed sites through the control of oxidative stress.”

The researchers confirmed they found a similar reduction in inflammatory response in the current study.

“The use of bovine colostrum, which is characterized by a high content of immunologically active compounds, can be an element of a relatively mild and safe intervention for reducing inflammation induced by intense physical exercise,” the researchers wrote in the study conclusion.

“Therefore, it is necessary to consider supplying athletes with bovine colostrum in periods of increased susceptibility to infections related to both the season and periods with a high exercise load.”

The study was published in Nutrients in November 2023.

Find colostrum in the following Optimal Health Systems products:

Optimal Defense
Natural Z Pak

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Source: Nutrients/MDPI.com.