Get A Bovine Boost

The thought of ingesting cow's blood derivatives sounds pretty unappealing, yet some companies are selling products containing these ingredients and claiming they boost immunity and help build muscle. Bovine serum concentrate has long been added to ham and sausages for flavor, but is now being marketed as a dietary supplement. To date, all claims are unfounded because there is no research showing that any commercially available bovine serum product affects either immunity or muscle mass in adult humans.

In what appears to be the only published human study of bovine serum, malnourished children in Peru were fed doses of bovine blood serum supplemented with milk concentrate and showed increased growth and absorption of nutrients. This study's relevance is questionable, however, because the bovine serum used was processed very differently from the type found in the commercially available products, usually listed as the dietary supplement ingredient ImmunoLin or NutraGammax.

One concern is that bovine blood products can contain hormones. Bovine blood serum naturally contains insulinlike growth factors. Certain individuals—athletes subject to random anabolic drug testing and people with hormone-responsive cancers—should consider consulting a physician before using these products.

Nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, MS, has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies, is co-founder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS), and founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.