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If Research Looks Too Good to Be True, it Probably is…

I recently learned that bovine colostrum (the milk produced by cows in the first few days postpartum) was discussed during a large online presentation for those with gluten-related disorders.  As some of you may know, I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding and I think that it is very important for newborn babies to get their own mothers’ colostrum, if possible, because it is full of antibodies and other immune proteins, pre- and probiotics, and it promotes optimal functioning of babies’ digestive tracts.

However, I was unfamiliar with any benefits of bovine colostrum for humans, and in doing a search of the literature on Pubmed.gov, I was unable to come up with any scientific references regarding the use of bovine colostrum for celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. All that I could find regarding bovine colostrum and “leaky gut” in humans was one study showing that bovine colostrum is associated with an increase in intestinal permeability in runners, and another showing that it may decrease intestinal permeability in athletes.

Many of the bovine colostrum manufacturers have loads of references about bovine colostrum available on their internet pages. Interestingly enough, many of them have exactly the same references that they appear to have shared with each other. I decided to check a couple of them out (taken from an anonymous company’s page):

1.   Immunoglobulin from bovine colostrum effectively reduces and prevents viral and bacterial infections in immune deficient subjects: bone marrow recipients, premature babies, AIDS, etc. New England Journal of Medicine

-This one caught my eye because I work with premature babies and I have never heard of bovine colostrum being used as a treatment in my patient population. I checked the entire New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) database for the last 20 years and there is only one article regarding bovine colostrum, which is a case report in which it was given to an AIDS patient with a cryptosporidial infection causing diarrhea.

2.   Immunoglobulin in colostrum has been used to successfully treat: Thrombocytopenia, Anemia, Neutropenia, Myasthenia Gravis, Guillain Barre Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Systemic Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Bullous Pamphigoid, Kawasaki’s Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Crohn’s disease, among others. Dr. Dwyer; New England Journal of Medicine

-Again, I checked the NEJM database, and I cannot find evidence of an author named Dr. Dwyer who has published any research about colostrum. Likewise, Dr. Dwyer definitely did not write a review article about colostrum for the NEJM. Is Dr. Dwyer a physician who reads the NEJM and somehow found all of these articles about colostrum that I am unable to find? Or is he or she made up? It’s hard to tell.

3.   Human clinical study: Immune factors in cow colostrum, when taken orally, are effective against disease-causing organisms in the intestinal tract. Ingestion of bovine colostrum’s immunoglobulins may be a new method of providing passive immunoprotection against a host of gut-associated disease causing antigens (viral and bacterial). Dr. R. McClead, et. al.; Pediatrics Research

Dr. R. McClead has published two studies about colostrum that are listed in PubMed.gov. The first, in 1984, showed that bovine colostrum contains antibodies against cholera. The second, in 1988, showed that bovine colostrum was not effective in the treatment of cholera diarrhea. Also, as an FYI, the journal Pediatrics Research does not exist; there is a journal called Pediatric Research. Is there possibly some unpublished pediatric research regarding bovine colostrum that Dr. McClead has done? If so, it should be described as such.

All in all, I personally have nothing against bovine colostrum, but I feel that the above references are misleading and make me much less trusting of such a product.  Scientific/research references should always contain the following information:

1. Authors’ names

2. Title of article/study

3. Journal name, volume, and page numbers (if unpublished, or an abstract only, it should be described as such)

4. Date of publication

If a manufacturer of a product is unable to provide this information with their cited reference(s), it is a red flag that the information they are providing may be inaccurate.  Also, a manufacturer of a product should not ask you to pay money to be able to see their references.  This information should be freely shared so that consumers can make informed decisions.

Have any of you had a similar experience of coming across references on the internet that do not add up? If so, please share.

7 thoughts on “If Research Looks Too Good to Be True, it Probably is…

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Gill,
      You are welcome. I really felt compelled to share this one because I became so upset as I was reading about all of it. Both the lack of human data as well as any information on the long term follow up of people who take this supplement concern me. Thanks for reading and I hope that you have a Merry Christmas!
      Jess

  1. Diana Thompson

    I had 30 years of celiac symptoms. I am glad nobody told my body about the IgG not helping! I healed up after using IgG. I used it for 90 days when I had been gluten free one year. My nutrient levels were still low at the time I began the IgG. My nutrient levels were up at about 18 months gluten free, or 6 months after beginning the IgG. This is subjective and a lot more was going on at the time, so I couldn’t provide conclusive proof for the IgG alone. I hope If there is something to the claims, it will be realized by many soon.

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Diana,
      I know from our previous discussions that you’ve been on a roller coaster of a ride the last couple years. And perhaps part of your healing was actually from the colostrum? The purpose of my post was not to say that it doesn’t work, but to show that the research that a lot of the manufacturers are showing to try to prove that it works is questionable. That’s all. I did not include this in my post, but one of the companies that I corresponded with told me that the research that I was looking for was all in a book that I would have to purchase!
      I am so glad that you are feeling better! Your health is by far the most important thing and I am in no way trying to belittle your pathway toward healing….I am glad to learn it has worked for you. Steve from the Gluten-Free Professor is also having some positive experiences with the same supplement as you.
      Jess

    1. Jess Post author

      No problem Dana! It took me long enough to read and learn about probiotics before I felt comfortable starting on one that I am pretty sure that bovine colostrum is not in my future. Thanks for stopping by and happy holidays to all of you!

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