Lactoferrin has been shown to be associated with a variety of physiological and protective functions in recent years, including regulating intestinal iron absorption, antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities, and is currently the most widely studied function
In empirical medicine, what are the benefits of lactoferrin supplementation, are there side effects of lactoferrin? See text analysis for details
What is lactoferrin?
Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein in the transferrin family with a molecular weight of about 78 kDa (kilodaltons) and 691 amino acids.
It was first identified as a type of erythrin in whey in 1939, and it was not until 1960 that it was isolated and purified from human and bovine milk, and it was determined to be the main iron-binding protein in milk.
Lactoferrin is produced and released by mucosal epithelial cells and neutrophils of a variety of mammals, including humans, cattle, goats, horses, dogs, and some rodents, and is present in most exocrine secretions, including milk, tears, saliva, intestinal mucus and genital secretions, and specific granules of neutrophils.
What are the benefits of lactoferrin?
1. Lactoferrin reduces the risk of respiratory infections
Respiratory tract infection refers to any infectious disease of the upper and lower respiratory tract.
Upper respiratory tract infections include the common cold, laryngitis, pharyngitis/tonsillitis, acute rhinitis, acute sinusitis, and acute otitis media. Lower respiratory tract infections include acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and tracheitis.
In general practice, 60% of antibiotic prescriptions are caused by respiratory infections, a huge expense for the NHS, with acute cough prescriptions costing more than £15 million a year.
A meta-analysis (including 6 randomized controlled trials) showed that lactoferrin significantly reduced the incidence of respiratory infections compared with controls. Note 1
The mechanisms behind it may be related to its immunomodulatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral activity.
*Conclusion: Lactoferrin may have a positive effect on reducing the incidence of respiratory infections, but due to the small sample size and risk of bias, more large studies are still needed to further validate
2. Lactoferrin prevents necrotizing enterocolitis
Necrotizing enterocolitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that occurs mainly in preterm infants, with risk factors including preterm birth, abnormal microbial colonization, and inadequate breastfeeding.
It is characterized by a variety of intestinal damage, from mucosal injury to full-thickness necrosis and perforation, the clinical manifestations are nonspecific, and the possible symptoms are: feeding intolerance, intestinal obstruction, abdominal distension, blood in the stool, lethargy, apnea, metabolic acidosis, shock, diffuse intravascular coagulation dysfunction, sepsis, etc.
A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (9 randomized controlled trials, 1834 preterm infants) found that prophylactic lactoferrin supplementation significantly reduced the incidence of late-onset sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis, as well as nosocomial infections, infection-related deaths, Time to entry into full enteral feeds and length of hospital stay. Note 1
*Conclusion: In preterm infants, lactoferrin may help reduce some infectious events
3. Lactoferrin improves iron deficiency anemia
Iron Deficiency Anaemia is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, affecting more than 2 billion people worldwide, and pregnant women are particularly at risk.
The prevalence of nutritional iron deficiency averages 14% in pregnant women in industrialized countries and 56% in developing countries.
In fact, even mild or moderate iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy may be associated with adverse outcomes at birth, including preterm birth, excessive birth weight, light fetal growth delay, and fetal death.
A meta-analysis (4 randomized controlled trials of 600 pregnant women with iron deficiency anaemia) noted that daily oral bovine lactoferrin was as good as ferrous sulfate in improving hematologic parameters (haemoglobin levels) in pregnant women with iron deficiency anaemia, but with fewer gastrointestinal side effects. Note 2
*Conclusion: For pregnant women with iron deficiency anemia, oral lactoferrin is helpful in improving hemoglobin levels with lower side effects than iron supplementation
4. Lactoferrin is beneficial to Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy
Helicobacter pylori is a gram-negative spirochebacter that is considered the most common bacterial infection in the world.
The site of infection is usually on the surface of the gastric epithelium and is thought to be associated with an increased risk of chronic gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma, and gastric adenocarcinoma.
In recent years, the most popular regimen for eradicating Helicobacter pylori infection has been triple therapy, including proton pump inhibitors, amoxicillin, and clarithromycin.
However, the efficacy of these combination therapies is declining due to emerging antibiotic resistance issues.
A meta-analysis (9 randomized controlled trials, 1343 participants) pointed out that the combination of lactoferrin in addition to Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy can not only increase the eradication rate, but also reduce the side effects (such as nausea) of the drug. Note 3
*Conclusion: For patients receiving regular Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy, additional lactoferrin may improve the eradication rate
5. Lactoferrin regulates psychological stress
Stress is defined as a process in which the demands of the environment stress an organism’s ability to adapt, leading to increased psychological needs and disease risk, with a large impact on mood, well-being, behavior, and health.
Not all stress has a negative impact. When the body is under stress and uses it to overcome burnout or improve performance, stress is positive, healthy, and challenging.
Stress is negative when it exceeds our ability to cope, exhausts the body system and causes behavioral or physical problems.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (18 healthy female college students) noted that oral lactoferrin helped regulate autonomic activity compared with placebo (parasympathetic upregulation and sympathetic activity down-regulation as measured by heart rate variability). Note 4
*Conclusion: Oral lactoferrin has a positive effect on autonomic regulation and may help reduce psychological responses under stress.
6. Lactoferrin is beneficial to acne improvement
Acne is a multifactorial chronic inflammatory disease of the sebaceous units of hair follicles and is one of the most common skin diseases that mainly affects adolescents, although it may appear at any age.
Various clinical manifestations include seborrheic sebaceitis, acne, erythematous papules, and pustules, and less commonly, nodules, deep pustules, or pseudocysts, and may cause scarring and pigment changes.
The pathogenesis of acne is multifaceted, including abnormal keratinization of hair follicles, increased sebum production due to rising androgens, and proliferation and inflammation of Propionibacterium.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (3-month trial of 168 patients with mild to moderate acne) showed that oral lactoferrin, vitamin E and zinc combined improved overall lesion count, acne inflammatory lesions, and sebum fraction. Note 5
*Conclusion: For patients with mild to moderate acne, oral lactoferrin combination may bring positive help to improve the condition
Are there any side effects of lactoferrin?
Moderate intake of lactoferrin is safe, but side effects have been reported as diarrhea, rash, dizziness, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, chills, and constipation, especially at high doses
Safety precautions (2 contraindications to use)
- If blood iron levels are higher than normal, it should be avoided to prevent excess iron in the blood.
- Poor liver and kidney function, pregnancy, breastfeeding, children under 18 years of age, medications, etc. If you want to use lactoferrin supplements, it is best to consult a medical professional first.