The Health Benefits of Lactoferrin
Lactoferrin is a protein known for its medicinal uses. It is most commonly found in milk, given by cows or humans. Colostrum, which is the first milk produced by the mother after a baby is born, contains about seven times more lactoferrin than any other milk. Lactoferrin helps the body to absorb iron, and it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Let’s look at lactoferrin and it’s medicinal uses in detail.
What is Lactoferrin?
Lactoferrin is a protein found in milk. It may also be found in other bodily fluids like saliva, tears, mucus or fluid in the respiratory tract. Lactoferrin is a popular health supplement, available in many forms. Lactoferrin for human consumption is obtained from bovine colostrum or produced using specially engineered rice.
Lactoferrin helps in the absorption of iron and iron compounds. It is antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Lactoferrin supplements are in demand due to their health benefits, some of which are listed below.
The Health Benefits of Lactoferrin
- Hepatitis C
Bovine lactoferrin (BLF) has been shown to prevent and even cure Hepatitis C infection in patients. Several studies have been conducted that support this claim. One such study was conducted to study the long-term effect of lactoferrin on chronic hepatitis C patients. The results suggested that an oral intake of bovine lactoferrin for up to 3 months produces a Th1 -cytokine rich environment. This helps the body to eradicate the Hepatitis C infection.
Other studies suggest that lactoferrin helps to increase levels of interleukin-18, which is a key protein in boosting immunity. In-vitro studies also find that lactoferrin can inhibit the replication of the hepatitis C virus in its initial stages, thus preventing the infection.
Acne thrives when your skin has an excess concentration of iron. Lactoferrin is an iron-scavenger, and it deprives the pathogenic acne-causing bacteria of getting their iron supply, thereby eliminating them.
Lactoferrin is also an antioxidant, meaning that it removes free radicals from your skin. Free radicals are another common cause of acne. Lactoferrin also promotes healing of your acne lesions by promoting the growth of healthy skin.
Lactoferrin inhibits bone degeneration, and also promotes the healthy growth of bones. Although research in this field is fairly limited, preliminary data indicates that lactoferrin may help to prevent osteoporosis.
One study looks at the effect of lactoferrin on postmenopausal women. In this double-blind trial, patients were either given a placebo, or they were given 125mg/per day of lactoferrin, along with the ribonuclease enzyme. After about 6 months, the studies reported a 15.6% decrease in bone degeneration markers, and a 7-33% increase in the bone-forming osteoblast, in women who received lactoferrin instead of the placebo.
Lactoferrin boosts your body’s immune system, thus protecting you from infections. It fights against the pathogenic microorganisms that enter your body, whether they are fungal, bacterial or viral in nature. It does so by preventing the viral cells from replicating themselves. Lactoferrin also doesn’t allow these pathogens to attach themselves to your host cells.
Lactoferrin combats against viruses that cause infections like the flu, common cold, herpes, gastroenteritis etc.
Lactoferrin protects against ulcers, by preventing an infection known as Helicobacter pylori.
Research and data from clinical trials demonstrate that bovine lactoferrin (lactoferrin obtained from cow colostrum supplements) has helped to statistically increase the eradication of H. Pylori infections in patients. This is attributed to Lactoferrins antifungal and anti-microbial properties.
- Low levels of iron in pregnant women
Iron Deficiency is one of the most severe nutritional disorders in the world. It poses risks such as preterm delivery, a risk to the fetus and the health of mothers. Several studies demonstrate that an oral intake of bovine lactoferrin (BLF) can reverse the cycle of iron deficiency in pregnant women. One such study shows that lactoferrin helps in managing anaemia and increasing the TSI levels in pregnant women.
Lactoferrin is useful in treating a range of different health problems. Some of its benefits are:
- Promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
- Reversing the signs of ageing, like wrinkles and fine lines.
- Strengthening the immune system.
- Treating diarrhoea caused due to leaky gut.
- Preventing certain types of cancer.
Possible side effects of lactoferrin
Lactoferrin is naturally found in milk in small quantities. Lactoferrin for human consumption is either derived from bovine colostrum or made using specially processed rice.
Lactoferrin supplements made from rice have to be consumed within 14 days. Research shows that consuming a higher amount of lactoferrin is safe for up to a year. The long-term safety of lactoferrin supplements is unknown. Lactoferrin, when taken in excess, may cause constipation and fatigue. Loss of appetite, rashes and chills have also been reported in some cases.
Lactoferrin is a very useful health supplement when taken carefully. It has numerous health proven benefits. However, you must always consult your doctor for dosage, especially if you have any co-morbid health conditions.