colostrum-growth-hormonesThe so-called growth factors in colostrum, growth hormone (GH) and the insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), are not mutually exclusive in terms of their effects. It is well documented that the influence of growth hormone on the proliferation of new cells in the body occurs primarily through what is known as the GH/IGF axis wherein the presence of GH triggers and enhances the many effects of the IGFs.


There are very small quantities of growth hormone in complete first milking colostrum, but GH is an extremely potent hormone and, thus, not much is required. It directly affects almost every cell in the body and significantly influences the development of new cells, causing them to generate at a more rapid rate when a sufficient quantity of the hormone is present. Scientific studies have shown that one of the benefits of ingesting even small amounts of GH is limitation of the deterioration of cells associated with the aging process. In addition, more recent studies have shown that small doses of GH can accelerate repair of the muscle damage associated with congestive heart failure and much more. This is a case where it is believed that the benefit occurs through the GH/IGF axis.


Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and its closely related counterpart insulin-like growth factor-2 (IGF-2) are potent hormones that are found in association with almost every cell in the body. IGF-1 is the most potent and best described of this pair. These molecules are present in all mammals and, in every case, have a very similar chemical structure regardless of the species. IGF-1 is absolutely necessary for normal cell growth and for the development of the fetus in the uterus. Both IGF-1 and growth hormone are also required for normal development outside of the uterus and that is why they are both present in colostrum. The chemical structure of the IGFs is very similar to insulin and that is where their name comes from.


Scientific knowledge about the IGFs, what they do and how they act on cells in the body has developed very quickly during the last few years. It is now known that there are specific sites, called receptors, on almost all cells in the body capable of interacting with IGF-1. These sites have a structure that fits perfectly with part of the IGF molecule and this interaction triggers a series of chemical events within the cell. There are also 6 different proteins present inside the cell and on the surface of the cell that react to the attachment of IGF-1 to its receptor. These are called insulin-like growth factor binding proteins (IGFBPs) and they control the actions of IGF-1 on the cell. In addition, inside the cell there are at least 87 other related proteins either capable of binding to IGF-1, altering its actions, or influencing the effects of the IGFBPs. These are called insulin-like growth factor binding protein-related proteins (IGFBP-rPs). The entire collection of these proteins is referred to as the Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein (IGFBP) Superfamily. The key event that triggers the effects of any of these proteins appears to be the interaction of IGF-1 with its specific cell-surface receptor, an event that some of these proteins regulate. 


The multitude of available IGF-1binding proteins and related proteins available in the cell is indicative of the many potential effects that the binding of IGF-1 to its specific cell-surface receptor can have on cells. To keep these many effects under control, some of the binding proteins act as checks and balances, allowing the secondary chemical switches in a cell to be turned on and then turning them off when it is appropriate. Therefore, IGF-1 is like the captain of a ship. When it binds to its specific receptor, the ship can move forward, but there are all kinds of systems in place to keep it moving at the right speed and in the right direction.


The main triggered events include activation of the process by which the cell grows and reproduces itself and maintenance of the metabolic pathways by which the cell converts glucose into glycogen and uses amino acids to create proteins. The actual pathway by which the cell uses glucose and converts it to glycogen is first switched on by the binding of insulin to its specific cell surface receptors. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles and is the reserve source of readily available energy when the muscles are exercised. The IGFBP Superfamily also has a direct role in how the cell uses amino acids to build proteins. As we age, the ability of our body to create an adequate supply of IGF-1 is diminished. Thus, by eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining a constant supply of IGF-1 in our body, we can keep the ship moving at the right speed and in the right direction. And when we exercise this becomes even more critical since there is an increased demand for glycogen to provide energy to our muscles and the preference is to build more muscle protein. Even more importantly, as we age the cells in our body do not reproduce themselves as well and, since IGF-1 is a primary factor, along with growth hormone, in the ability of cells to grow and reproduce, it is highly desirable to have an appropriate level of IGF-1 in the circulation through dietary supplementation to limit the ever increasing rate of cell death.


From the above, we can conclude that making sure that we have sufficient quantities of IGF-1 in the bloodstream, as would occur by dietary supplementation with a high quality first milking colostrum, means assurance of more effective regulation of protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism. When this is coupled with a well-balanced diet and exercise, the end result will be more muscle and less fat – a leaner body mass. This becomes even more important as we age since metabolism increasingly slows naturally over the years.


There have been several published studies that reflect an increase in IGF-1 levels in the circulation as a result of supplementation with a source of IGF-1. Most have been conducted in athletes since this could be an important consideration.  Our colostrum contains 2200 – 2300 ng per gram of IGF-1, this has been verified through independent testing at Cornell University.  


You should also be aware that a high quality first milking colostrum contains several vitamin and mineral carrier proteins that will assist in the more effective utilization of such substances when they are obtained through dietary supplementation.


It is also very, very important to recognize that all colostrum products are not the same and, despite the claims made by their manufacturers, they do not all contain every beneficial component at an optimum concentration and, in many cases, they have been manipulated and may be missing some of the essential components. When choosing a colostrum product, you should be certain that it is made from only first milking bovine colostrum collected within 6-8 hours after birth of the calf and that the colostrum is “complete” and that none of the components have been removed, including the fat.


This article has been published with special permission by Dr. Anthony Kleinsmith