One of the most versatile ingredients in colostrum is lactoferrin. In this article, we would like to take a closer look at the effect, properties and areas of application of this multifunctional protein, as it is of considerable relevance for our health.
What is lactoferrin?
Lactoferrin is a basic protein from the transferrin family. The protein takes over many different functions of enzymes and nucleases. The protein, which consists of a polypeptide chain with around 700 amino acids, is found in particular in the organism of mammals.
Originally, the substance was called lactotransferrin – composed of lacteus (Latin) “milky” and ferrum (Latin) “iron” or transferre “(to)transfer”. In the course of time, however, the shorter name variant lactoferrin has become established. The name thus already refers to milk, the iron balance and the transport function.
Where does lactoferrin occur?
The densest concentration of lactoferrin is found in mammalian milk. But lactoferrin is also found in various body fluids – for example, in sweat, saliva, bile, tears, urine, seminal fluid, vaginal secretions, and also in the mucus of the respiratory tract.
Important: In a liter of human colostrum are about 8 g lactoferrin, in a liter of normal milk, however, only about 1-2 g contained.
Lactoferrin is produced by the epithelial cells of various organs, including the mammary gland. Lactoferrin is passed on to the infant via the first milk (colostrum). This supports a general strengthening of the immune system and the entire organism in the first days and weeks.
Lactoferrin in colostrum
Normal milk contains too little lactoferrin to extract enough substance from it for use in food. In the (first) milk of the cow, however, lactoferrin is present in the highest concentration. And since the cow’s colostrum is almost identical to human colostrum, this natural source is used to produce lactoferrin as a dietary supplement.
Effect and function of lactoferrin
Lactoferrin and its effects are now well researched. The protein performs a number of functions that can have a positive effect on health. What exactly lactoferrin means for our immune system, the intestine and nutrition is presented in the following section.
The effect of lactoferrin on the intestine
Lactoferrin exhibits a digestive effect in the intestine. The microbiome – the microorganisms that live in the intestine and are involved in metabolic processes – is extremely relevant for our immune system and our health. The microbiome is also referred to as the intestinal flora.
Lactoferrin has the property of promoting good microorganisms and inhibiting or even eliminating the bad ones in their growth. Thus, lactoferrin has a very positive effect on the intestine.
The effect of lactoferrin on the immune system
Lactoferrin is particularly important for the immune system. With its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic and antioxidant properties, it participates in the body’s first line of defense. It thus fights against a wide variety of bacteria, viruses and inflammations.
These properties are also based on the ability of lactoferrin to bind or transport iron. This is because lactoferrin deprives bacteria of the iron they need to survive. And iron also plays an important role in inflammation – lactoferrin helps the body to excrete iron and thus regulate iron levels in the blood.
In addition, lactoferrin promotes the growth of lymphocytes – it thus stimulates and regulates our immune system in a natural way.
The effect of lactoferrin on the skin
However, lactoferrin has an equally positive effect on our skin. Improvements have been seen especially in viral skin diseases, and taking lactoferrin for acne symptoms (pimples, blackheads and inflamed pimples) has also resulted in a significantly improved skin appearance.
But lactoferrin is also increasingly used in cosmetics, i.e. for external application.
The intake of lactoferrin via food
As a food or dietary supplement, lactoferrin is usually very well tolerated. Of course, the quality of the product is important here. In particular, organic quality from certified farms guarantees that there are no preservatives or residues in the production process.
A normal daily dose of lactoferrin is 100 to 300 mg. And if you as the end consumer follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions, there is of course no reason to fear an overdose.
This is because side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, or even fatigue can only occur with a longer-term and simultaneously high-dose intake.
Contraindications and negative interactions with food or drugs are not known. With antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, or antiparasitic drugs, on the contrary, synergistic, – i.e. positive effects – have been observed.
Applications of Lactoferrin
In summary, taking lactoferrin may have the following beneficial health effects:
+ Prevention of infectious diseases – Preventively or therapeutically, lactoferrin is used for colds or gastrointestinal complaints, as it strengthens the immune system and directly fights bacteria and viruses.
+ Regulation of iron balance – Lactoferrin very effectively improves iron absorption and transport of the element within the body. Thus, inflammation or anemia can be positively influenced.
+ Treatment of allergies – Due to the immunoregulatory effect of lactoferrin, allergies can also be improved. Excessive and inappropriate immune response is attenuated.
+ Improvement of the microbiome – The harmonizing effect of lactoferrin on the intestinal flora is useful at any age, preferably also after antibiotic treatment or in connection with painkillers that damage the intestinal flora.
+ Promoting oral hygiene – The environment in the mouth can also be supported for improved oral and dental hygiene with lactoferrin to treat conditions such as periodontitis, caries or halitosis.
+ Improving the ability to rege – After athletic exertion, lactoferrin can be used to shorten recovery phases. Older people in particular benefit from this because they can produce less lactoferrin even in old age.
Lactoferrin is a protein that is found specifically in the first milk of mammals and can support health with many different functions – for example in metabolism, in the regulation of the immune system or also in relation to a healthy intestinal environment. As a result, the substance is successfully used both internally and externally for a number of applications.