You might know colostrum is the first part of breastmilk. It’s a rich source of fat and immunoglobulins, which are essential building blocks for baby’s brain and immune system.
Recently though, colostrum is having a moment – in the form of supplements, being sold as an answer for everything from immune boosting (that term is a red flag in itself; nobody wants a ‘boosted’ immune system), gut-healing, muscle building, and fat burning.
The colostrum in these supplements comes from cows, and is often marketed as ‘sustainable’ and ‘grass fed’…just in case you were worried about those things.
What is ARMRA colostrum?
ARMRA is a company that sells a popular and highly advertised colostrum supplement using influencers with millions of followers to push its product on social media.
‘Backed by over 5000+ studies,’ one sponsored caption claims, and ‘is the secret being harnessed by elite athletes and insiders everywhere. We keep selling out for a reason!’
The list of benefits they describe seems great, but do they hold up against the current colostrum research?
Colostrum may be mentioned in 5000 research studies, but this does not mean anything in terms of its efficacy for any purposes. The colostrum mentioned in studies may be human or animal, supplementary or not. This is a misleading tactic I see being used a lot by supplement companies, because they know it’s convincing.
The average person often doesn’t know how to read a scientific research study – it’s a skill that most of us just don’t have if we aren’t in a science-based profession. Companies also know that just using the word ‘research’ sounds sciencey enough that people will believe it to be relevant to the product without investigating further.
Don’t be fooled.
I also don’t want you to be swayed by the ominous wording on the ARMRA site that’s written to make potential customers believe that they need this supplement to combat all the ‘toxicity’ in the world.
I’m going to argue that a significant part of the toxicity we live with is supplement companies and their influencers, spreading misinformation and lies about our bodies.
There we are again…’1000 studies’ claim. And let me guess…ARMRA is the answer to all of our modern health problems.
Even media articles citing dietitians seem to be jumping onto the overhype bandwagon. Take the following piece from Insider, which pops up near the top of a Google search for ‘colostrum supplements dietitian.’
The preview seems promising! If dietitians say this thing has health benefits, and dietitians are regulated health professionals who are supposed to be evidence-based, all must be good!
Getting into the article, we see that there has been some reaching to make colostrum seem more researched and efficacious than it actually is.
This dietitian is citing in-vitro cell cultures to support her claim that colostrum helps with signs of aging.
I’m pointing this out because it’s a common tactic that I don’t want you to fall for. Within the article, there’s also the disclaimer that more research is needed to confirm the benefits of colostrum for adults.
Here are some claims that one influencer is making on her site on behalf of ARMRA, the same company featured in the screenshots above. You know that this person is probably receiving money from ARMRA when they’ve linked to the company site and has an affiliate link within their post.
Just as an aside, people selling product with sponsored posts are required by law to disclose this relationship, and this person has not done that. I’ve literally never seen an influencer working with ARMRA, disclose their obvious financial relationship with the brand. It’s bizarre.
Note that every time she links the word ‘colostrum,’ it leads to the ARMRA site.
These claims are typical of the ones being made around colostrum supplements. Let’s take a look at how they stack up against the evidence.
In terms of colostrum and gut permeability or ‘leaky gut,’ the evidence is weak. This 2021 review of studies was majorly underwhelming on the human side (versus in animal or cells). Interestingly, the research was funded by PanTheryx, ‘the colostrum company.’
This 2021 review of studies looking at colostrum and various outcomes in athletes (some studies included are cell studies) overall found conflicting and what I’d call unremarkable results.
The researchers also received funding from a colostrum supplement company.
This 2022 study examined the effects of colostrum supplements on gut permeability in athletes, and found a need for more research around this topic. The available research is conflicting and just not adequate to draw definite conclusions.
There is absolutely no evidence to support her implication that colostrum can help with allergies and autoimmune disorders. This is totally irresponsible. We already know that for skin, the research has been done only in animals, so I’m not sure why she’s saying that colostrum can help with aging. There is no research in adults that conclusively shows that colostrum helps with athletic performance or with immune function. The IGF-1 in colostrum is broken down before it even reaches our muscles.
All in all, a dumpster fire that looks pretty, and contains little to no substance.
ARMRA colostrum research
As for ARMRA itself, there’s some crazy claims being made on their site.
I’m not sure where these numbers came from, since the one study that has been done on the ARMRA product was done on cells in a lab. This is not applicable to entire human beings in the real world. In fact, it wasn’t even a peer reviewed study, it was a technical paper of a couple experiments.
The rest of ARMRA’s extremely long list of citations on their ‘research’ page is similarly disappointing, with only a few exceptions.
They go on to list 18 studies on intestinal barrier function that have nothing to do with colostrum.
Next up are 13 studies on paediatric intestinal barriers and human breast milk. Not relevant to adult humans or bovine colostrum supplements.
They then list 24 studies on “efficacy of components of first milk in fortifying mucosal immunity (1-5), including increasing adherence of only healthy microbiome bacteria in the gut (6), increasing respiratory microbiome diversity (7) – and protecting against the development of and/or expediting recovery from respiratory and GI illnesses.”
Out of these 24 studies, the majority are on the use of bovine colostrum in children to prevent and treat diarrhea. One of the studies is from 1983. Another ‘study’ listed is actually a case report done on one patient with a cold. Several of the studies are in mice or rats.
Are you a child, a mouse, or a rat? I didn’t think so. The adult human digestive system is different from theirs.
I’m just going to step in here to say that this sort of thing is what I almost always see on ‘research’ pages from supplement companies. I’m not sure there has ever been an exception, so I shouldn’t even use the phrase ‘almost always.’
It’s always what I see. Lists of citations that are probably meant to confuse potential customers and convince them that the product has reams of evidence behind it. But behind these citations are mostly old, poorly done, animal, or irrelevant studies or even just case studies done on one or two patients.
This sort of thing doesn’t prove the efficacy of anything.
Moving on, the next group of research studies is described by ARMRA as “‘Regarding influenza specifically, studies demonstrating colostrum to be more effective than the flu vaccine at preventing flu infection and role in COVID recovery.”
Essentially, the company is implying that colostrum is a preferable alternative to the flu vaccine, which as a dietitian, I find extremely unethical. Sure, there are people who are unable to take the vaccine, but I still recommend it to those who can get it.
The flu-specific studies they list to support this assertion did show some significance in people who took colostrum to prevent flu, but the studies were not controlled, and they didn’t prove causation. It’s important to also note that one group that found positive results had the flu vaccine AND the colostrum supplements.
Colostrum supplements may impact immunity, but aren’t necessarily better than the flu vaccine.
There is some evidence that colostrum supplements may help with the prevention of covid-19, as outlined in the 2 studies in this category. There is an ongoing research study to this effect (not on the ARMRA site).
These were the most convincing of all the studies and study areas cited by ARMRA to support its product (there were more, and I went through all of them, but in the interest of brevity I’m going to tell you here that many were in rodents, in cell cultures, and the human ones were not relevant and/or what I would call significant).
ARMRA’s presence on social media is so pervasive. Their ads pop up everywhere, and even L’il Sipper has gotten into the action (even though she’s so against ultra-processed foods, which colostrum supplements absolutely ARE).
ARMRA colostrum has done a great job…of harnessing the power of huge influencers to sell its products.
There’s something remarkably unethical about non-science influencers shilling a product that’s supposedly supported by scientific evidence. Seeing these people parroting talking points given to them by the company, while very obviously not understanding at all what they’re saying, just looks bad.
ARE COLOSTRUM SUPPLEMENTS WORTH IT?
Colostrum is very expensive – a 30-pack of ARMRA will run you $50 (and note the claims made about this product – *eyeroll* AGAIN, without convincing evidence:
All in all, colostrum supplements appear to be safe, so try them if you must. But research is lacking and frequently misrepresented, so manage your expectations. And hey – if the big influencers you follow are constantly posting sponsored content, you might want to take a step back and consider if they’re someone you want to take your advice from.