Irish sea moss, collagen, and ashwagandha just got a new buddy — enter colostrum, the latest supplement fad hitting your feeds. Sometimes called "liquid gold," colostrum is a nutrient-dense fluid produced by the breasts of female mammals for the first few days after birth. It provides new offspring especially nutritious first meals until the mother's regular milk comes in. Now, a growing list of supplement manufacturers are taking colostrum from cows and turning it into pills and powders with supposedly sweeping health benefits for adult humans. But are the benefits just hype?
We spoke with three dietitians to understand if there's any truth behind the claims.
More about colostrum milk
Colostrum is packed with protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients that help kickstart newborns' immune systems and gut health and encourage healthy development, including:
Antibodies to help fight off infections
Proteins like lactoferrin for immunity
Hormones that stimulate growth
The bovine colostrum extracted from a cow used to make supplements goes through pasteurization and the final product is typically a pill or a powder.
What are the supposed colostrum benefits for adults?
"The evidence supporting colostrum's benefits for adults is less robust compared to that of newborns," says Jordan Hill, RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian whose clients include athletes and postpartum women.
Small studies show some potential colostrum benefits for adults:
Enhanced athletic performance. Athletes appear to be particularly drawn to colostrum supplementation (including drinking human breast milk) to "aid exercise performance and recovery," says Lizzy Swick, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian who specializes in prenatal and postpartum nutrition. Many human studies of cow colostrum use have focused exclusively on this group, although the research is inconclusive, and some studies have been funded by companies that manufacture colostrum products.
What to consider before taking a colostrum supplement
"[As] with any supplement, there's the risk of contamination, improper handling, or lack of proper regulations and testing when collecting and processing colostrum," says Hill. Remember, the supplement industry remains unregulated in the U.S. If commercially available bovine colostrum isn't properly pasteurized, it could contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella. Plus, anyone with a dairy allergy should steer clear, says Swick. It's also pricey: One 30-day supply can cost as much as $70.
If you're looking to supercharge your health, Swick recommends simply starting with the basics. "Unfortunately, in health, there is no easy button, and I would caution anyone to pause and first see where they can dial in their nutrition, exercise, stress, and sleep before rushing to take a supplement," she says.
If you're still interested in taking colostrum supplements despite these concerns, Hill suggests looking for a brand that has transparent sourcing about where the colostrum comes from, complete labeling indicating the ingredients and amount of colostrum per serving, and that receives third-party testing. Pro-tip: Before you take any supplement, "Check with your dietitian or healthcare provider to make sure it's a good fit and that the product you select is the appropriate dose and quality for your specific needs," says Swick.
Human colostrum may be "liquid gold" for babies' health, but the supposed colostrum benefits for adults may be too good to be true.
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