Ask Dr. Andro: Are Colostrum and Milk Products in General Healthy Muscle Builders, a Waste of Money or Toxic Waste?
|Image 1: Colostrum and other milk products|
Milky muscle builders or murky allergens?
(image from SportRevue 6/2010)
Answer Dr. Andro: In fact it got delayed, the delay got delayed again and now there is so much delay that I felt like further delaying the write-up would border pathological procrastination... Instead of citing the three existing studies on colostrum, however, I decided to do a more comprehensive "Ask Dr. Andro" segment on the powers and perils of the milky mammalian life-elixir that has been used and later abused (I am referring to the modern way of food processing here) by generations of human beings and is still considered as an "evolutionary inappropriate" foodstuff by some.
"Muscle building magic happens, when you put the right stack together", says Carl Lenore in a spot for IronMagLabs prohormones - Well, guess what milk may be the original "stack"
|Image 2: If you are interested in the way|
the US government treats non-compliant
raw dairy producing listen to Carl Lenore's
rant against the "Rawsome Raid"
Depending on which expert you are asking you will either be told about the life-threatening dangers or the almost magical benefits of the biologically active proteins, peptides, lipids and sugars in milk and related dairy products. In that, it stands out of question that these peptides display antimicrobial, opioid, mineral-binding , antihypertensive, antithrombotic, and immunomodulating properties.
|Physiological Effect / Classification||Compound(s)|
|Opioid agonists (decrease gastric mobility, increase electrolyte and amino acid uptake)||α- ,β-caseins, α-lactalbumin, β-lactoglobulin, serum albumin|
|ACE inhibitors (increase blood flow to intestinal epithelium)||α- ,β-caseins|
|Mineral binding (increase absorption)||α- ,β-caseins|
|Immunomodulators (increase immune response and phagocytic activity)||α- ,β-caseins, gG, IgA, lactoferrin, glycolipids, oligosaccharides, prolactin, cytokines|
|Antimicrobial||αs1 and s2-casein, lactoferrin, oligosaccharides, prolactin|
|Probiotic||κ-casein, lactoferrin, oligosaccharides|
|Opioid antagonist||κ-casein, lactoferrin|
|Organ development and function||IGF-1, TGF-α, EGF, TGF-β|
|Increase calcium metabolism and uptake||Parathromone - P|
|Table 1: Milk as a "functional food". Physiological effects and their respective triggers.|
(adapted from Schanbacher. 1998; Meisel. 1998 and Clare. 2000)
The overview in Table 1 makes it quite clear, milk derived peptides are hardly inferior to pharmacological agents. Whey proteins and peptides derived from the enzymatic proteolysis of casein and whey, for example, modulate a variety of processes such as lymphocyte activation and proliferation, cytokine secretion, antibody production, phagocytic activity, and granulocyte and natural killer (NK) cell activity (Gauthier. 2006).
|Illustration 1: Bioactive components in milk and their respective beneficial effects on health markers. |
(adapted from Corhonen. 2009; in Park, ed. 2009, ISBN 978-0-8138-1982-2)
Did you know that a 2007 forecast estimated the sales in functional foods for the US to 3,478 million US$? I suppose now you will begin to understand why companies are willing to spend millions of dollars into respective research and nobody really cares about potential negative side effects of what I would like to call "functional food gone disfunctional"... its a pity!
The Immunoglobulin / Allergy Side of the Coin
In view of the current scare of gluten-, soy and whatever anti-bodies to food your body is able to produce, it must be said that mammalian immunoglobolins (IGs) are essential to the humoral part of the immune defense of the neonate. Milk, and colostrum in particular, one could say, are specifically "designed" by nature to provide the newborn with antibodies until its own immune system learns to handle the constant assault on its own.
|Figure 1: Bioactive substances in colostrum and milk - note the particular differences in immunoglobolin, lactoferrin, serumalbumin and growthfactors (data adapted from Corhonen. 2009; in Park, ed. 2009, ISBN 978-0-8138-1982-2)|
|Image 3: It is a reasonable, yet not |
scientifically studied question, if
milk per se, or rather the industrialized
variety you buy at the grocery store
is the cause of all sorts of autoimmune
reactions (image from CCRecycling)
These random examples are not meant to negate the well-established prevalence of autoimmune reactions (often in its immediate form, which most of us associate with the term "allergy) to milk products. According to Cattan et al. (2011) 2%-3% of young children display are affected by cow's milk allergy. I do yet wand to submit that even this unfortunate statistic does not answer the question whether it is the "living nutrient" milk or rather its dead, highly contaminated industrial incarnation that affects the children.
|Figure 2: Concentration of immunoglobulins in bovine and human milk and colostrum; mind the logarithmic scale!|
(data adapted from Stelwagen. 2009 according to Butler. 1973)
Is there any "Raw Truth" to the Stories About Unpasteurized Milk?
The remarks on the industrialized dairy production at the end of the previous paragraph bring up the question whether milk from the opposite site of the spectrum, i.e. raw milk from happy pasteur-fed cows, would really be a better or even generally healthy alternative to the white potage in your fridge. A first clue that this may in fact be the case can be found in a 2006 paper (with no declared conflict of interests) by the British scientists Michael R. Perkin and David P. Strachnan on the inverse association between farming lifestyle and childhood allergy (Perkin. 2006), in which they state that
current unpasteurized milk consumption was associated with signiﬁcantly less current eczema symptoms (adjusted OR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.40-0.87; P 5 .008) and a greater reduction in atopy (adjusted OR, 0.24; 95% CI, 0.10-0.53; P 5 .001) [... and] was associated with a 59% reduction in total IgE levels and higher production of whole blood stimulated IFN-g (P = .02)The most interesting finding, however, was that "the effect was seen in all children, independent of farming status".
|Figure 3: Percentage of pathogen infected samples of different foodstuffs; missing bars indicate no sample available|
(data adapted from a presentation by Baars. 2010)
Colostrum, Milk and the Athlete
|Image 4: Over years, milk has|
been marketed by athletes in
Germany (image (c) CMA)
As an avid reader of the science news on the SuppVersity you will probably be familiar with the fact that, time and again, plain chocolate milk, with its mixture of fast and slow digesting carbs and proteins, has either stuck with or even outperformed expensive post-workout formulas (cf. table 2)
|Ferguson-Stegall. 2011b||"CM [chocolate milk] postexercise improves aerobic power and body composition more effectively than CHO [carbohydrate] alone"|
|Ferguson-Stegall. 2011a||"CM supplementation can improve subsequent exercise performance and provide a greater intracellular signaling stimulus for PRO synthesis compared to CHO and placebo"|
|Gilson. 2010||"CM provided similar muscle recovery responses to an isocaloric CHO beverage during four-days of ITD [increased training duration]. Future studies should investigate if the attenuated CK [creatine kinase = marker of muscle damage] levels observed with CM have functional significance during more demanding periods of training"|
|Pritchett. 2009||"These findings indicate no difference between CHOC and this commercial beverage as potential recovery aids for cyclists between intense workouts."|
|Thomas. 2009||"Participants cycled 51% and 43% longer after ingesting CM (32 +/- 11 min) than after ingesting [commercially available] CR [carbohydrate drink] (21 +/- 8 min) or FR [fluid replacement drink] (23 +/- 8 min)"|
|Carp. 2006||"[...] chocolate milk is an effective recovery aid between two exhausting exercise bouts"|
|Table 2: A selection of recent studies on the ergogenic effects of (chocolate-)milk|
On the other hand, most of these beneficial effects on regeneration, protein synthesis etc. could be attributed to the nutrient content of (chocolate) milk alone. A question that would be of much greater interest to the majority of athletes and fitness enthusiasts would though be, whether or not they could benefit from the various growth factors scientists have found in milk and dairy products since the initial discovery of growth-promoting or -inhibitory peptides in colostrum in the 1980s.
Colostrum: A Miracelous, White "Growth Factors" Elexir!?
Now, as the data in figure 1 indicates, colostrum is by far the best source of these growth-regulators, as I would like to call them. BTC (beta cellulin), EGF (epidermal growth factor), FGF1 and FGF2 (ﬁbroblast growth factor), IGF-I and IGF-II (insulin-like growth factor), TGF-β1 and TGF-β2 (trans- forming growth factor) and PDGF (platelet - derived growth factor) - for all of them applies that their concentration, both in human, as well as in bovine colostrum is highest during the first hours after childbirth / calving (cf. figures 3 and 4).
|Figure 4: Reduction in immunoglobulins in colostrum after two and three days relative to immunoglobulin content of colostrum on day one post-partum (data calculated based on Kelly. 2003)|
- Which of these growth factors could improve athletic performance?
- Is the dose of the respective growth factors in milk / colostrum sufficient to illicit physiological effects? And most importantly...
- Can these oral growth factors nature intended as a supplement for the newborn calf do their magic in adult human beings, as well?
|Figure 4: Reduction in cytokines in colostrum after two and three days relative to cytokine content of colostrum on day one post-partum (data calculated based on Kelly. 2003)|
With regard to the powdered supplements, but also in view of the potential benefits of "regular", i.e. pasteurized milk, it should be noted that the growth factors present in milk seem to withstand pasteurization and even ultrahigh temperature (UHT) heat treatment of milk relatively well (Gauthier. 2006). While EGF and BTC, as stimulators of epidermal, epithelial and embryonic cells, are relatively uninteresting for healthy athletes, their ability to promote wound healing and bone resorption could be particularly interesting for injured athletes. The same is true for the two forms of TGF-β, both of which stimulate the proliferation of connective tissue cells.
The two forms of IGF, on the other hand, stimulate the proliferation (cell growth) of various tissues, and regulate metabolic functions such as glucose uptake and the synthesis of glycogen. It stands to reason that their highly marketable presence in colostrum is the main reason for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to invest a non-negligible share of their hard-earned money into respective supplements. The question yet remains, are they wasting their money?
Will the Growth Factors Be Absorbed, At All?
It has been established by animal studies that EGF, TGF and also both IGF isoforms "provoke various local effects on the gastrointestinal tract and can be absorbed intact or partially from intestine into blood circulation" (Korhonen. 2009; in Park, ed. 2009, ISBN 978-0-8138-1982-2). As you may have read in my dissertations related to the IGF1-spray, rodent studies show that naturally occuring proteins (e.g. casein) and protease inhibitors in milk protect these peptides against gastric and intestinal breakdown. The number of human studies on the subject is yet not very extensive, to say the least. The most comprehensive research has probably been done by Antti Mero and his group at the Department of Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland. Their results show that in the absence of performance increases in vertical jump performance, 8 days of supplementation with a commercially available colostrum product (Bionervie) dose-dependently increased serum IGF-1 levels (Mero. 1997).
|Figure 5: Changes in IGF serum concentration [in nmol/L] between pre- and posttraining in 9 male sprinters and jumpers; note: a follow up study showed that the increase in IGF was not a result of immediate oral absorption, but a downstream effect of colostrum supplementation (data adapted from Mero. 1997)|
|Image 5: Creatine Monohydrate increases|
IGF1 by 24% over placebo (Burke. 2008).
Absorption data show that ingested 123I-rhIGF-I [that is the previously radiolabelled IGF1 in the colostrum] is fragmented in circulation and that no radioactive IGF-I is eluted at the positions of free, or the IGF, binding proteins, giving no support to the absorption of IGF-I from bovine colostrum.Yet even if colostrum does not do its magic by delivering IGF and other growth factors into the bloodstream, it appears to "work" and thus the question that remains to be answered is whether plain milk, or rather a whey protein supplement, which currently is the gold-standard for the majority of athletes and fitness enthusiasts, would not be as effective as the more expensive colostrum supplements.
|Illustration 2: According to Buckley. 2003 there may be a 500% difference in price, the effect on serum IGF1 and exercise performance of 60g colostrum and 60g whey per day, are yet 100% identical.|
|Shing. 2006||"[10g/day] bovine CPC [colostrum concentrate] supplementation elicited improvements in TT40 [40 km time trial] performance during an HIT period and maintained ventilatory threshold following five consecutive days of HIT"|
|Buckley. 2003||same increase in peak power for 60g colostrum as with whey protein; no increase in IGF1|
|Brinkworth. 2004a||"[cross sectional area of biceps increased more in trainees supplemented with 60g bovine colostrum than in whey control, but that was] due principally to a greater increase in skin and subcutaneous fat (SSF) CSA"|
|Buckley. 2003||same increase in peak power for 60g colostrum as with whey protein; no increase in IGF1|
|Buckley. 2002b||"[...] latively few scientifically controlled studies have been conducted. The limited evidence that is currently available suggests that BC supplementation can increase lean body mass and improve exercise performance and recovery for a number of athletic activities, but an understanding of the mechanism by which this supplement exerts these effects remains elusive"|
|Buckley. 2002a||"[...] supplementation with intact powder did not increase plasma IGF-I concentrations or improve performance during an initial bout of incremental running to exhaustion in our sample. However, performance during a second bout of exercise may be improved by as much as 5.2% in the average subject after 8 weeks of supplementation, possibly due to an enhancement of recovery"|
|Coombes. 2002||"Oral bovine colostrum supplementation at 20 g or 60 g/d provided a small but significant improvement in time trial performance in cyclists after a 2-h ride at 65% VO2max." [improvements were 20g colostrum+40g whey 60g+ colostrum 60g+ whey]|
|Antonio. 2001||"[...]supplementation with bovine colostrum (20 g/d) in combination with exercise training for 8 wk may increase bone-free lean body mass [+1.5 kg, while whey-placebo group increased overall BM by +2 kg] in active men and women."|
|Mero. 1997||"appears that a bovine colostrum supplement (Bioenervi) may increase serum IGF-I concentration in athletes during strength and speed training" (cf. discussion in the text)|
|Table 2: A selection of studies on the ergogenic effects of colostrum|
Personally, I would trace these subject-specific differences back to an already optimized nutrient supply, where the addition of the beneficial amino acids, minerals and vitamins from colostrum (or milk) does not make much of a difference. Otherwise, I would allign myself with the following statements Burke and Deakin make in view of the expedience of colostrum supplementation
[t]he only consistent findings from the present studies of colostrum supplementation are that there are no apparent benefits to the outcomes of resistance training (Antonio et al. 2001; Buckley et al. 2003; Brinkworth et al. 2004), and that when benefits are detected, they are apparent only after more than 4 weeks of treatment (Buckley et al. 2002, 2003).In view of the exorbitant costs of a colostrum supplements (cf. illustration 2) and the absence of any reliable quality standards (you never know if "your" colostrum has even remotely the same nutrient / growth factor composition as the one used in one of the studies) I thus strongly advise against spending the roughly 270$ a month supply of bulk colostrum powder (of questionable quality) would cost you, if you wanted to mimic the 60g/day dose that was used in the majority of studies with beneficial outcome.
[...] The lack of a plausible hypothesis to explain how colostrum might enhance the response to exercise is also an important absence.
[...] Whether all colostrum supplements are of equal quality or efﬁcacy is also a concern.
|Figure 6: 1st-day Colostrum is a particularly|
rich source of antibody against all
sorts of pathogens (adapted from
Stephan. 1990 and Rump. 1992)
I've broached the issue of possible infections from (raw) milk in a previous paragraph, already. As it turned out, chicken, meat and most notably fish, one of the only foods even the "hip", health-conscious Men's Health or Shape readers are scarfing down raw, are the major offenders, when it comes to pathogen infections. Now, what's even more interesting is that to protect the growing calf from harm, colostrum comes with a whole host of antibodies against all your favorite pathogens:
- Helicobacter plyori
- E. coli (remember the recent death-toll in Europe?)
- Candida albicans
- and many more
In view of the sheer amount of highly bioactive compounds in colostrum, it is no wonder that the "early milk" has also been implicated as a viable treatment for several gut pathologies. Its ability to eradicate gut parasites such as candida or helicobacter plyori aside, its effect on intestinal permeability may be of greatest value for athletes, who experience significant (sometimes more than 2.5x, which is similar to what is seen upon the administration of particularly nasty NSAIDs such as indomethacin) increases in gut permeability as a consequence of streneous exercise.
Amino Acids for Super Humans Series, a joint project of the SuppVersity and Carl Lenore's Super Human Radio and a "must read / listen", if you are interested in the ergogenic of these nitrogen containing molecules which are much more than just building blocks of protein and muscle.A very recent study by Marchbank et al. shows that the administration of 20g/day of colostrum in the 14 days prior to a standardized exercise test blunted 80% of the detrimental effects on intestinal permeability and thus protected the subjects from the influx of luminal toxins in the post-exercise period (Marchbank. 2011).
Click here to read all about l-glutamine
Staving off the Common Cold (and Other Ailments) with Supplemental Colostrum!?
Compared to the information on its effect on gut health, the scientific data on the immune-strengthening effects many people associate with, or even expect from the consumption of colostrum is less unequivocal. While long term studies (10 and 12 weeks of 25g/day supplemental colostrum) showed improved immunity and reductions in upper-respiratory tract infections in distance runners (Crooks. 2006) and swimmers (Crooks. 2010), respectively, a 2011 study by Carol et al. showed no improvement in the immune reaction to a 90-minute glycogen-depletion trial over skim-milk, when the subjects had consumed a similar colostrum supplement as it was used in the Crooks studies in the ten days prior to the experiment (Carol. 2011).
|Image 7: Long distance endurance athletes |
such as swimmers and marathon runners
probably benefitmost from colostrum.
Hormones and Other 'Fun' Compounds in Milk and Colostrum
|Figure 7: Androgen and estrogen content in|
milk from French supermarkets collected in 2006
and 2007 (data adapted from Courant. 2008)
- gonadal hormones (estrogens, progesterone, androgens),
- adrenal (glucocorticoids), pituitary (prolactin, growth hormone), and hypothalamic hormones (gonadotropin - releasing hormone, luteinizing - hormone – releasing hormone, thyrotropin - releasing hormone), and
- peptides and hormone-like substances like somatostatin, bombesin, calcitonin, insulin, melatonin, and parathyroid hormon, and
- pesticides and other toxins, beta-agonists, non-steriodal-antiinflammatory drugs, etc.
- melamine (the stuff the Chinese add as a protein substitute that then kills their babies)
I've already broached the issue of peptides, will leave aside the toxins, pesticides and co, simply because these are exogenous contaminants you may or may not find in your milk products (not to mention that this blogpost is already epic enough ;-) and conclude this epic "Ask Dr. Andro" segment with a brief discussion of the potential dangers or benefits of naturally occuring hormones in milk.
By now, the presence of all sorts of hormones in "white gold" actually should not surprise you anymore. I've already mentioned in one of the previous paragraphs that the milk of a mammal is just as much a mirror of its metabolic and endocrine status, as is its blood. This obviously entails that if you inject your cows with growth hormone (as it is obviously still allowed in the US) or other hormones to increase milk production or whatever other wicked intention you may be harboring, you will obviously find "traces" of these exogenous hormones in the milk and, even more so the, colostrum of your cow.
|Figure 8: Naturally occuring androgen and |
estrogen content in different forms of colostrum
(data adapted from Farke. 2011)
- what the animals were fed
- which medications the animals received
- when, i.e. in which hormonal phase (note: the melatonin content even varies with the time of the day), the cows are milked
- what "happened" to the milk on its way from the cow / farmer into your fridge
- colostrum (skimmed) contains roughly 19x more androgens and 213x more estrogens than whole milk
- for milk and colostrum the full fat variety tends to have generally higher levels of both androgens and estrogens - for colostrum, for example the fat fraction contains 10x androgens and 10x more estrogens than the skimmed variety, which is also used as a base for most powdered colostrum supplements
- in the case of milk, the ratio of androgens to estrogens (AE-ratio) drops by -34% during the skimming process; in fact, skimmed milk contains more estradiol (per liter) than whole milk.
- 17beta-testosterone - 2µg/kg (ADI), 320ng/kg (FDA)*
- 17beta-estradiol - 50 ng/kg, 65ng/kg (FDA)
* Isn't it strange how the FDA allows roughly 160x the amount of testosterone to be present in foodstuff than the WHO considers an "acceptable daily intake"? How come steroids are illegal in the US, then ;-)?
|Image 7: If you want the anabolic effect |
from milk or colostrum you better buy
yourself this 45,000$ milk truck!
An Overdue Preliminary Conclusion
|Image 8: Even colostrum won't|
make you unbreakable... it is
yet about as unlikely that it
will kill you, as some anti-dairy
activists would have it.
Well, I guess these are the two polar extremes of the preliminary conclusion to this "Ask Dr. Andro" segment and, as it is so often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. I cannot tell you your exact position on the death to ultimate health continuum as far as your personal reaction to dairy consumption is concerned, I can only tell you that even if your genetic polymorphisms allow you to consume dairy, the chance that replacing your whey protein by a 6x more expensive colostrum powder will make a beneficial difference in how you look, feel and perform are minimal. I am not so sure however, if you would not see some, if only psychological (placebo) benefits if you mixed that whey into some real, i.e. whole, liquid and not powdered, 1st day colostrum you bought the very same day from your local farmer ;o)
That being said, I could certainly go on forever on milk, organic milk, milk from happy and milk from pasteur fed cows, the effects of soy on the milk you consume, raw milk, 1st day and 4th day colostrum, and so on and so forth, but I suppose that Peter, who posed the original question (just in case you forgot due to the informational overkill of this not even half-done write-up), and the rest of you have enough to think about for the coming week. Ah... and in case you can't get enough of milk (I mean metaphorically) just pose another, hopefully more concrete "Ask Dr. Andro" question in the comment area or on the SuppVersity's facebook page ;-)