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      Lactoferrin is a minor glycoprotein component of whey. It belongs to the iron transporter or transferrin family of glycoproteins. Lactoferrin is also found in exocrime secretions from mammals and is released from neutrophil granules during inflammation. The lactoferrin concentration in bovine (cows) milk is only 0.5% to 1.0% while human breast milk can contain as much as 15% lactoferrin.

      Lactoferrin plays several important roles in human biology. First, Lactoferrin is believed to play a role in the uptake and absorption of iron through the intestinal mucosa. It may be the primary or sole source of iron for breast fed infants. Second, Lactoferrin appears to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory activities.

How Lactoferrin Works

      Receptors for lactoferrin are found in monocytes, lymphocytes, neutrophils, intestinal tissue and on certain bacteria. Lactoferrins ability to bind iron may account for some of its anti-bacterial activity. Iron is essential to support the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Lactoferrin may also inhibit the attachment of bacteria to the intestinal wall.

      The possible antiviral activity of supplemental lactoferrin may be due to its inhibition of virus-cell fusion and viral entry into cells. It is believed that Lactoferrin may promote the growth and differentiation of T lymphocytes. Lactoferrin appears to bind uniquely to sites on the T4 (helper) and T8 (suppressor) lymphocytes. Lactoferrin also appears to play a role in the regulation of cytokines and lymphokines, such as tumor necrosis (TNF)-alpha and interleukin (IL)-6.

      Lactoferrin's possible antioxidant activity may also contribute to its possible immunomodulatory activity. Antioxidants are getting increasing attention as possible therapeutic agents in infections and a variety of other diseases. Lactoferrin's ability to bind iron probably contributes to both its antioxidant properties and its antibacterial action. Free iron is a contributor in the generation of free radicals.

Lactoferrin Research Summary

      Lactoferrin has exhibited significant activity against Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis, Staphyloccocus aureus, Candida albicans, HIV, herpes simplex type 1, hepatitis C, cytomegalovirus and other pathogens in vitro (in a lab dish) studies. Human studies, however, are almost entirely lacking.

Lactoferrin Contraindications, Interactions & Precautions

      Some individuals may have a hypersensitivity or allergy to lactoferrin. It is contraindicated for those individuals. It is generally recommended that pregnant women and nursing mothers avoid using lactoferrin because it has not been tested in these conditions.Some in vitro studies suggest that lactoferrin acts synergistically with antifungal agents, making them more potent.

Lactoferrin Dosage

      Oral lactoferrin dosed at 40 mg daily has been used in a couple of clinical trials. Those who supplement with lactoferrin typically take 250 mg daily.

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Lactoferrin References

      To view the references for this article, Go Here .

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