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Lactoferrin (LF) is a protein found in milk. Colostrum, the first milk produced after the birth of a baby, contains seven times more lactoferrin than milk produced later. Lactoferrin is also found in other body fluids: saliva, tears, mucus or bile.

Lactoferrin is a multifunctional glycoprotein involved in many physiological functions, including the regulation of iron absorption and immune responses. Furthermore, there is growing evidence for the neuroprotective effects of lactoferrin.

The main functions of lactoferrin in the body include iron binding and transport. It also helps fight infections. Many people also take lactoferrin supplements for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Although lactoferrin powder usually comes from genetically modified rice, it can also come from cow's milk. Therefore, people with lactose intolerance are advised to check the source of lactoferrin before taking a supplement.

Lactoferrin and its benefits

Here are the main benefits of lactoferrin:

- anti-infective action

Lactoferrin has both antibacterial and antiviral action.

In a 2014 report published in the Journal of Infection and Chemotherapy, scientists reviewed available research on lactoferrin's antiviral properties and found that it can inhibit viruses from attaching to cells in the body and replicating in cells. They also found that lactoferrin can improve the body's immunity.

Lactoferrin's antibacterial action consists of blocking the carbohydrate metabolism of bacteria, destabilising cell walls and preventing bacteria from getting the iron they need to function properly.

One of the bacteria against which lactoferrin works is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). A report published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2014 concluded that lactoferrin from cow's milk can help eliminate the bacteria and reduce infection rates.

There is some scientific evidence that lactoferrin may inhibit hepatitis C infection.

- stimulates foetal and infant development

In the human foetus, lactoferrin serves as a regulator of bone growth in the early stages of human bone development; it promotes the growth of cartilage tissue at various stages of foetal development; it promotes iron absorption; it may prevent infection and rupture of foetal membranes while easing labour.

Infants need lactoferrin to develop a healthy gut. Lactoferrin in breast milk also helps protect breastfed infants against infection.

- supports skin health

In studies, participants who consumed lactoferrin-enriched milk showed a decrease in the number of acne lesions, the number of inflammatory lesions, the degree of acne and the amount of sebum compared to participants who took a placebo.

A 2017 study examined the use of lactoferin supplements combined with vitamin E and zinc for three months in people with mild to moderate acne. The conclusion, in these individuals there was a reduction in acne lesions, number of comedones and inflammatory lesions compared to those taking placebo.

- supports bone health and prevents osteoporosis

Laboratory tests have established that lactoferrin can stimulate the growth of bone cells (osteoblasts).

A study published in Osteoporosis International in 2009 concluded that postmenopausal women who took a lactoferrin supplement had a significant reduction in bone resorption and an increase in bone formation compared to those who took a placebo.

- has antioxidant properties

Because iron can cause oxidative stress, lactoferrin can reduce oxidative stress by binding and removing iron, which prevents cell damage or death.

Lactoferrin supplementation may support the immune system as an antioxidant.



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