Mid Wales

Early milk helps athletic performance, research finds

Milk bottles (generic)
Image caption Early milk is produced by cows in the 48 hours after giving birth

Drinking milk produced by cows in the 48 hours after giving birth could enhance athletic performance, scientists have found.

Athletes given early milk for two weeks before a trial had a big reduction in a rise in "gut leakiness".

The project is the first collaboration of Aberystwyth Department of Sport and Exercise Science, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The findings could also have implications for heat stroke.

Also known as bovine colostrum, early milk is abundant in bioactive components, commercially available, and usually obtained from organic dairies.

The project looked at athletes who were asked to run for 20 minutes at 80% of their aerobic maximum.

Under standard conditions, gut leakiness had increased by 250% and temperature had risen by up to 2 degrees.

But when the group were given a drink of early milk for two weeks before the trial, the rise in gut leakiness was reduced by about 80 per cent, despite the same effort and temperature rise.

Prof Ray Playford of the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Barts, said: "Athletes' performance can be seriously diminished due to gut symptoms during heavy exercise.

'Natural approaches'

"We have been looking at natural approaches to reduce this problem as the range of products that athletes can legitimately take is very limited.

"Our findings suggest colostrum may have real value in helping our athletes perform.

"In addition, extremes of temperature and exercise are often suffered by armed forces in desert war scenarios and can result in heat stroke, which is life-threatening.

"Based on our results to date, our research group is also exploring products that may be useful for protecting soldiers in life threatening situations such as these."

Gut disorders induced by exercise are common in runners.

The body's response to increased permeability is to clear the gut contents, giving rise to symptoms such as diarrhoea to avoid toxins from gut organisms entering the bloodstream, because these can contribute to symptoms associated with heat stroke and can result in damage to internal organs.

Dr Glen Davison of Aberystwyth University, who coordinated the research at Aberystwyth, said: "The findings show that bovine colostrum supplementation can have beneficial effects on the immune system and illness in athletes as well as helping to protect the gut.

The findings were published in the March 2011 issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

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