Lactoferrin supplement health benefit for immune system,
does it help fight obesity? Do these pills help you lose weight?
Found in milk and colostrum
September 23 2016 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Lactoferrin is a globular protein with antimicrobial
activity. Lactoferrin is found in the human body and is also found in milk and
colostrum. It is found in bovine colostrum, from cows.
Lactoferrin was identified as a milk protein in 1960. Large-scale manufacturing
of bovine LF was established in the 1980s. Lactoferrin is digested by gastric
pepsin to generate a multi-potent peptide, lactoferricin. Oral administration of
bovine LF enhances host protection against infections via antimicrobial action
and immune enhancement of the host. This substance may also have a role to play
in cancer prevention.
You can purchase colostrum as a supplement.
Source, where does it come from?
Lactoferrin is found in milk and mucosal secretions such as tears and saliva. Human colostrum has the highest concentration, followed by human milk, then cow milk.
Nutritional roles of lactoferrin. Review article
Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009.
Until relatively recently, the only significant source of lactoferrin in the diet was human lactoferrin, provided in breast milk. Today, however, bovine lactoferrin, isolated by dairy technology, as well as recombinant human lactoferrin are commercially available and can be added to foods and clinical products with perceived benefits to the consumer. Ingested lactoferrin has been suggested to exert antibacterial and antiviral activities in the intestine, in part through a direct effect on pathogens, but possibly also affecting mucosal immune function. The latter function is most likely mediated by lactoferrin being taken up by cells via a unique receptor-mediated pathway and affecting gene transcription. Lactoferrin has also been shown to enhance iron status of infants and pregnant women, possibly also via the receptor-mediated pathway. In addition, lactoferrin can stimulate intestinal cell proliferation and differentiation, causing expansion of tissue mass and absorptive capacity. On the contrary, lactoferrin has been shown to inhibit carcinogenesis. Oral lactoferrin treatment may have an anti-inflammatory effect on pregnant women, reducing pregnancy complications. Lactoferrin treatment may have beneficial preventive and therapeutic effects on infection, inflammation, and cancer as well as enhancing iron status and growth in vulnerable groups.
Lactoferrin and anemia
Preventive effect of lactoferrin intake on anemia in female long distance runners.
Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008. Department of Sports Science, School of Health and Sports Science, Juntendo University, Inba-Gun, Chiba, Japan.
This study investigated whether intake of lactoferrin would improve or prevent anemia in female long distance runners who were training during the summer season and had a high risk of iron-deficiency anemia. Sixteen female long distance runners were divided into a group taking lactoferrin and iron and a group that only took iron for 8 weeks. In the control group, the ferritin, serum iron, and red blood cell count were significantly lower than before treatment. In the lactoferrin group, the hematology data showed no significant change during the 8 weeks. The red blood cell count was significantly higher in the lactoferrin group than in the control group. The blood lactate level following a 3,000-m pace run of the control group was also significantly higher than that of the lactoferrin group. These observations suggest the possibility that intake of lactoferrin increases the absorption and utilization of iron and would be useful in the prevention of iron deficiency anemia among female long distance runners.
Lactoferrin for athlete's foot
Oral administration of bovine lactoferrin for treatment of tinea pedis. A placebo-controlled, double-blind study.
A clinical study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of lactoferrin, which is a protein component of cow's milk, in the treatment of athlete's foot. Doses of either 600 mg or 2000 mg of lactoferrin, or a placebo was orally administered daily for 8 weeks to 37 adults who were judged to have mild or moderate athlete's foot. In the analysis limited to subjects with moderate vesicular or interdigital athlete's foot, dermatological symptoms scores in the lactoferrin-treated groups decreased significantly in comparison with the placebo group. The organisms isolated were Trichophyton rubrum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. A mycological cure was not seen in any of the subjects. These results suggest that orally administered lactoferrin can improve the dermatological symptoms in some subjects with athlete's foot. The potential usefulness of lactoferrin as a functional food material for treating athlete's foot was seen for the first time in this study.
Cancer prevention with lactoferrin
Crit Rev Food Science Nutr. 2009; Rodrigues L, Teixeira J, Schmitt F, Paulsson M, Månsson HL. IBB-Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre of Biological Engineering, Campus de Gualtar Braga, Portugal.
Lactoferrin is an iron-binding glycoprotein that is composed of the transferrin family and is predominantly found in the products of the exocrine glands located in the gateways of the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems, suggesting a role in the non-specific defence against invading pathogens. Additionally, several physiological roles have been attributed to LF, namely regulation of iron homeostasis, host defence against infection and inflammation, regulation of cellular growth, and differentiation and protection against cancer development and metastasis. These findings have suggested LF's great potential therapeutic use in cancer disease prevention and/or treatment, namely as a chemopreventive agent.
Common cold and viral infection
Complement Ther Med. 2013. The clinical efficacy of a bovine lactoferrin / whey protein Ig-rich fraction (Lf/IgF) for the common cold: a double blind randomized study. The aim of the study was to determine if a bovine lactoferrin/whey protein Ig-rich fraction (Lf/IgF) combination was effective in reducing the number of colds and in turn improving symptom recovery in a cohort of males and females that reported frequently contracting a cold. A double blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. One-hundred and twenty-six participants matched by age, BMI, dietary and physical parameters with self-reported frequent upper respiratory tract symptoms and infections were randomly assigned to receive 600 mg of Lf/IgF or a placebo daily for 90 days A total of 90 participants (47 receiving the active and 43 placebo) completed the 90 day trial and 15 completed 45 days participation (6 in the active and 9 in the placebo group). The total number of colds recorded over the study period was 48 for the treatment group versus 112 for the placebo group. The significant trend was retained when the data was corrected for medications returned and for guessing treatment allocations. Non-parametric analysis demonstrated that the total number of cold-associated symptoms reported by participants that received Lf/IgF was significantly less than those in the placebo group. Also, total days sick with a cold and cold severity were reduced over the clinical trial period for Lf/IgF over placebo, but the trend was not significant. These findings demonstrate that the Lf/IgF combination significantly decreased the incidence of colds and the cumulative number of cold-related symptoms over placebo. This therapeutic combination may be indicated for the prevention of colds and its most common symptoms in the general population when administered as a preventative supplement.
Dry eyes after cataract surgery
J Clin Diagn Res. 2015. Effect of Oral Lactoferrin on Cataract Surgery Induced Dry Eye: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed intra-ocular surgeries, of these manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (SICS) is a time tested technique of cataract removal. Any corneal incisional surgery, including cataract surgery, can induce dry eye postoperatively. Various factors have been implicated, of which oneis the inflammation induced by the surgery. Lactoferrin, a glycoprotein present in tears is said to have anti-inflammatory effects, and promotes cell growth. It has been used orally in patients of immune mediated dry eye to alleviate symptoms. Sixty four patients of cataract surgery were included in the study. Patients with pre-existing dry eyes, ocular disease or systemic disease predisposing to dry eyes were excluded from the study. The selected patients were assigned into two groups by simple randomisation-Control Group A-32 patients that did not receive oral lactoferrin postoperatively. Group B-32 patients that received oral lactoferrin 350 gm postoperatively from day 1 after SICS. Small Incision Cataract Surgery induces dry eye postoperatively. Oral lactoferrin given postoperatively improves tear film status and dry eye after cataract surgery.
Organ transplant rejection
Q. Searching the web I came across a research abstract which briefly discussed using lactoferrin (actually recombinant) in combination with other immunosuppressants to prevent organ transplant rejection. What is your knowledge about this use?
A. Although such an article was found on google search, using the keywords "lactoferrin organ transplant" we could not locate an article published in PubMed.
Weight loss, obesity help?
Babies drink a lot of colostrum which has a high level of lactoferrin in it, but they do not lose weight. Nevertheless, a few studies, mostly in Japan, hint that lactoferrin tablet ingestion, as enteric coated, can help with weight loss. I will be more convinced when I see studies that confirm these findings from other research centers.
Mechanism of action
After oral administration of LF, decreases of body weight, waist measurement, visceral fat tissue, plasma and liver fatty acid concentrations, triglycerides and cholesterol have been found in the Japanese studies. The mechanism of LF action may involve several processes, such as inhibition of adipogenesis, decrease of dietary triglyceride absorption, elevation of HDL cholesterol possessing anti-atherogenic properties, inhibition of accumulation of oxidized LDL cholesterol forms in macrophages and protection against formation of foam cells.
Potent anti-obesity effect of enteric-coated lactoferrin: decrease in visceral fat accumulation in Japanese men and women with abdominal obesity after8-week administration of enteric-coated lactoferrin tablets. Ritsumeikan Global Innovation Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University, Nojihigashi, Kusatsu, Shiga, Japan – First published online 9 August 2010. Lactoferrin (LF), a multifunctional glycoprotein in mammalian milk, is reported to exert a modulatory effect on lipid metabolism. The aim of the present study was to elucidate whether enteric-coated LF (eLF) might improve visceral fat-type obesity, an underlying cause of the metabolic syndrome. Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled design, Japanese men and women (n 26; aged 22–60 years) with abdominal obesity (BMI . 25 kg/m2, and visceral fat area (VFA) . 100 cm2) consumed eLF (300 mg/d as bovine LF) or placebo tablets for 8 weeks. Measurement of the total fat area, VFA and subcutaneous fat area from computed tomography images revealed a significant reduction in VFA in the eLF group, as compared with the placebo controls. Decreases in body weight, BMI and hip circumference in the eLF group were also found to be significantly greater than with the placebo. There was also a tendency for a reduction in waist circumference in the eLF group as compared with the placebo group. No adverse effects of the eLF treatment were found with regard to blood lipid or biochemical parameters. From these results, eLF appears to be a promising agent for the control of visceral fat accumulation. Br J Nutr. 2010.
PLoS One. 2014. Lactoferrin dampens high-fructose corn syrup-induced hepatic manifestations of the metabolic syndrome in a murine model. We investigated how the anti-inflammatory properties of lactoferrin can protect against the onset of hepatic manifestations of the metabolic syndrome by using a murine model administered with high-fructose corn syrup. Our results show that a high-fructose diet stimulates intestinal bacterial overgrowth and increases intestinal permeability, leading to the introduction of endotoxin into blood circulation and liver. Beneficial effects of lactoferrin related to the downregulation of the lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory cascade in the liver. Furthermore, lactoferrin reduced serum and hepatic triglycerides to prevent lipid accumulation in the liver, and reduced lipid peroxidation, resulting in 4-hydroxynonenal accumulation. Lactoferrin reduced oral glucose tolerance test and homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance. Lactoferrin administration thus significantly lowered liver weight, resulting from a decrease in the triglyceride and cholesterol synthesis that activates hepatic steatosis. Taken together, these results suggest that lactoferrin protected against high-fructose corn syrup induced hepatic manifestations of the metabolic syndrome.
Histological and immunohistochemical evaluation of duodenal and colonic biopsies after oral bovine lactoferrin supplementation in beagle puppies.
J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr. 2009; Handl S, Wehr U, Zentek J, Krammer-Lukas S. Institute of Nutrition, Department for Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinaerplatz 1, Vienna, Austria.
Lactoferrin is a natural compound in the milk of mammals and was shown to influence the intestinal micro-flora and the immune system in mice, calves, dogs and man. The present study was carried out to investigate the effect of orally administered bovine lactoferrin (0, 30, 60 and 120 mg/kg DM feed) on the intestinal morphology and lymphocyte colonization in 36 motherless raised puppies. Histological scoring revealed no significant differences amongst the groups. IgG+ plasma cells were reduced in the lamina propria of the colon of the 30 and the 60 mg group. The number of CD8+ lymphocytes was higher in the epithelium of the colon of the lactoferrin groups. In conclusion, this study indicated only minimal effects of bovine lactoferrin on the population of selected immune cells in the gut mucosa of puppies. More investigations are needed to describe the impact of lactoferrin on the digestive physiology of puppies.
Questions and testimonials
Q. I have been using lactoferrin supplement now for a couple of months. My acupuncturist recommend it and it's supposed to be anti viral, anti bacterial. All I know is that my husband had a bad cough a few weeks ago with fever and I didn't catch it.
As always I look forward and enjoy reading your emails,
thank you for continuing to send them to me, I find them extremely informative
and respect Dr. Sahelian. I was going to a DCM for acupuncture and she
recommended that I take Lactoferrin because she thought some of the muscle pain
I might be experiencing was from a virus so she told me to take it. That was
about 10 months ago and I have been taking that supplement since. You didn't
mention Lactoferrin in your newsletter article on swine flu as a supplement for
possibly preventing viral or bacterial infections which Lactoferrin is supposed
to do. I'm thinking that perhaps I should not take it any longer without knowing
more about it. Please give me whatever information you have. I know from past
emails you don't want to recommend what someone should do, but at the same time
you do tell your readers your opinion on certain supplements. One time you told
me that I was taking too high of a dosage of alpha lipoic acid which I decreased
and do not take every day because you told me it wasn't necessary. Thank you for
any info you can give me on this product. The supplement I take is by Jarrow
A. Lactoferrin is an interesting supplement that is likely to be helpful as an immune enhancer although I have not seen long term studies in humans to determine whether taking this product can boost the immune system consistently over time.
My 84-year-old mother has been taking Lactoferrin for the
past two years, very successfully helping her with her history of UTIs /
biofilms. It's been absolutely fantastic. She is just about to start taking
Colostrum in an endeavour to try to heal her painful bladder and urethra. I
realise that colostrum has a lot of lactoferrin in it which makes me wonder
whether she should still be taking the lactoferrin at the same time as the
colostrum. I'm finding it very hard to get hold of info on the advisability of
taking both together. I've found one research document which does advise taking
both together (for prostate cancer patients) but I can't find any anecdotal
evidence from patients who take both. I don't want to give her too much
lactoferrin (although I think that some people do take large doses of it without
A. The reason it is difficult to give such advise is that there is little or no research to give us any hints regarding these combinations.