Bovine colostrum improves neonatal growth, digestive function, and gut immunity relative to donor human milk and infant formula in preterm pigs

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2016 Sep 1;311(3):G480-91. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00139.2016. Epub 2016 Jul 21.


Mother's own milk is the optimal first diet for preterm infants, but donor human milk (DM) or infant formula (IF) is used when supply is limited. We hypothesized that a gradual introduction of bovine colostrum (BC) or DM improves gut maturation, relative to IF during the first 11 days after preterm birth. Preterm pigs were fed gradually advancing doses of BC, DM, or IF (3-15 ml·kg(-1)·3 h(-1), n = 14-18) before measurements of gut structure, function, microbiology, and immunology. The BC pigs showed higher body growth, intestinal hexose uptake, and transit time and reduced diarrhea and gut permeability, relative to DM and IF pigs (P < 0.05). Relative to IF pigs, BC pigs also had lower density of mucosa-associated bacteria and of some putative pathogens in colon, together with higher intestinal villi, mucosal mass, brush-border enzyme activities, colonic short chain fatty acid levels, and bacterial diversity and an altered expression of immune-related genes (higher TNFα, IL17; lower IL8, TLR2, TFF, MUC1, MUC2) (all P < 0.05). Values in DM pigs were intermediate. Severe necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) was observed in >50% of IF pigs, while only subclinical intestinal lesions were evident from DM and BC pigs. BC, and to some degree DM, are superior to preterm IF in stimulating gut maturation and body growth, using a gradual advancement of enteral feeding volume over the first 11 days after preterm birth in piglets. Whether the same is true in preterm infants remains to be tested.

Keywords: bovine colostrum; donor human milk; infant formula; necrotizing enterocolitis; nutrient fortification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cattle
  • Colostrum*
  • Digestion / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula*
  • Intestines / physiology
  • Milk, Human*
  • Premature Birth
  • Swine / physiology*