Consumer News

Cow Colostrum Supplements

What you need to know about what some are calling "liquid gold."

Consumer News

Cow Colostrum Supplements

For the first few days after babies are born, mothers will make colostrum, a “pre-milk” liquid substance filled with nutrients that can benefit the babies’ immune systems if they drink it. Some even call this substance “liquid gold.”

All female mammals produce colostrum for their young, including cows. But in a recent marketing trend, supplement companies are advertising cow or bovine colostrum supplements claiming they can provide myriad health benefits not only for their young but for human adults as well.

WonderCow, for example, claims that its colostrum powder strengthens the human immune system, enhances skin radiance and improves memory, mood and focus. ARMRA says that its powder fortifies gut health, restores sleep and activates hair growth. And Miracle Moo claims that its colostrum powder, which it touts is the “#1 most recommended product on TikTok,” supercharges immunity, reduces bloating and promotes healthier skin, hair and nails.

Unfortunately, the science does not seem to back up these types of claims.

While there have been some small studies that suggest bovine colostrum may provide some health benefits to humans, larger studies are needed to sufficiently back up these kinds of health claims, experts say. In February, the New York Times reported that:

There’s no rigorous, published data yet to back up claims that the supplement can support skin regeneration, lead to weight loss or reverse age-related changes. And experts said that even the studies that have been done provide only limited evidence: While some report positive findings, others have failed to replicate the observations or found no benefit.

And some of the research that does exist on the benefits of bovine colostrum has been funded or conducted in part by the supplement makers or run by people with links to colostrum supplement companies, the New York Times noted.

Go deeper

According to the FTC, claims about the health benefits of a product must be substantiated by “competent and reliable scientific evidence.” What does that mean? The FTC’s Health Products Compliance Guidance states:

Randomized, controlled human clinical trials (RCTs) are the most reliable form of evidence and are generally the type of substantiation that experts would require for health benefit claims.

But on ARMRA’s research page, for example, the supplement company highlights four “studies” on the benefits of colostrum, which are not “randomized, controlled human clinical trials.” Rather, they’re reviews of studies. And one of the reviews, which examined nine studies on the influence of bovine colostrum supplementation on leaky gut syndrome in athletes, concluded that more research is needed.

BC supplementation may be highly beneficial in improving gut permeability in athletes. However, well-designed, placebo-controlled, and randomized studies are needed to evaluate the long-term safety and efficacy and to determine the optimal dose schedules of BC supplementation in high-performance athletes.

ARMRA also links to a technical paper on its research page that discusses lab results that reportedly found ARMRA showing “a promising combination of protective effects at the cellular level, involving both immune cells and gut cells.” Promising – in other words, not proven.

ARMRA did not respond to a request for comment.

WonderCow also links to colostrum research on its website but the company is quick to point out that the research is “on colostrum as a whole” and “not unique” to WonderCow. In response to a request for comment, WonderCow founder Rob Diepersloot said “our only functional claims are gut support, immune support and muscle recovery (which we have the research, published articles and our own trials to back up),” providing a link to the colostrum research page.

Miracle Moo does not link to or list any colostrum research or studies on its website, despite marketing its product (which contains a second ingredient – ImmunoLin) as “clinically backed.”  The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Also of note, the FDA has established that many of the health claims being used to market bovine colostrum supplements are drug claims requiring its approval, which these supplements do not have. The FDA has sent warning letters to bovine colostrum supplement companies in the past.

The bottom line

It’s worth remembering that supplements aren’t regulated the same as drugs. Unlike drugs, the FDA doesn’t review supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are marketed and sold to consumers. That’s why consumers should consult with their health care providers before starting any supplement.

Find more of our coverage on supplements here.

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