Lactoferrin is most commonly used for low iron levels in women who are pregnant and for preventing blood infection (sepsis) in premature infants. It is also used for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these other uses.
In industrial agriculture, lactoferrin is used to kill bacteria during meat processing.
How does it work ?
It also seems to protect against infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Lactoferrin seems to slow down the growth of bacteria by starving them of nutrients. It also destroys the walls around the bacteria. The lactoferrin contained in mother's milk is thought to help protect breast-fed infants against infections.
Lactoferrin also seems to be involved with the production of blood cells and how well the body fights off infections.
Uses & Effectiveness ?
Possibly Effective for
- Low iron levels in women who are pregnant. Some research shows that taking lactoferrin as a source of iron during pregnancy is about as effective as oral iron supplements and might be as effective as an iron injection given by a health care provider.
- Blood infection (sepsis). Research shows that giving lactoferrin to premature infants while they are in the hospital may help to prevent serious blood infections.
Likely InEffective for
- Death of an unborn or premature baby. Research shows that taking lactoferrin does not seem to prevent the death of premature infants.
- A serious intestinal disease in premature infants (necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC). Research shows that taking lactoferrin does not seem to prevent premature infants from developing NEC.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Low levels of red blood cells in people with a long-term illness (anemia of chronic disease). Early research suggests that taking lactoferrin may improve blood markers in some patients with this condition. Lactoferrin may work better in patients who are also pregnant.
- Diarrhea in people taking antibiotics (antibiotic-associated diarrhea). Early research suggests that taking lactoferrin helps to prevent diarrhea from antibiotics in older people.
- Low levels of healthy red blood cells (anemia) caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research in people with cancer who have low levels of red blood cells shows that taking lactoferrin as a source of iron might be as effective as receiving iron injections.
- Common cold. Early research in healthy adults shows that taking lactoferrin does not prevent symptoms of the common cold.
- Diarrhea. Early research shows that taking lactoferrin does not reduce the chances of diarrhea in young children that have been weaned from breast milk.
- A digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori). It is not clear if taking lactoferrin from cows (bovine lactoferrin) helps standard H. pylori treatments to work better. Some studies show bovine lactoferrin improves how well these medications work. But other studies show no benefit. However, studies do agree that taking lactoferrin alone is not effective for treating H. pylori infection.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (hepatitis C). Early research shows that taking lactoferrin from cows might improve some blood levels in people with hepatitis C.
- Preterm birth. Very early research has found that using a vaginal lactoferrin tablet for 21 days is linked with a lower risk for preterm birth in adults who have overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina and previous history of preterm birth.
- Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis). Early research shows that taking lactoferrin by mouth and applying it to the skin might reduce symptoms like redness and scaling in people with psoriasis.
- Infection of the airways. Early research shows that taking lactoferrin does not reduce airway infections in healthy, young children.
- Pneumonia in people on breathing machines in the hospital. Early research in adults on breathing machines shows that taking lactoferrin does not prevent pneumonia.
- A mild form of gum disease (gingivitis).
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis).
- Infant development.
- Overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina.
- Vaginal yeast infections.
- Other conditions.
When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if lactoferrin is safe. It might cause skin irritation.
When administered into the vagina: There isn't enough reliable information to know if lactoferrin is safe or what the side effects might be.
Special Precautions and Warnings
Children: In infants and young children, lactoferrin is POSSIBLY SAFE when added to formula or other foods, such as yogurt.
We currently have no information for LACTOFERRIN overview.
- For low iron levels in women who are pregnant: 200-250 mg lactoferrin each day for up to 8 weeks.
- Blood infection (sepsis): 100-250 mg or 100-200 mg/kg lactoferrin daily while hospitalized. The lactoferrin is typically added to infant formula.
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Ishii K, Takamura N, Shinohara M, et al. Long-term follow-up of chronic hepatitis C patients treated with oral lactoferrin for 12 months. Hepatol Res 2003;25:226-233. View abstract.
Itell HL, Berenz A, Mangan RJ, Permar SR, Kaufman DA. Systemic and mucosal levels of lactoferrin in very low birth weight infants supplemented with bovine lactoferrin. Biochem Cell Biol. 2020 Aug 25. View abstract.
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Di Mario F, Aragona G, Bo ND, et al. Use of lactoferrin for Helicobacter pylori eradication. Preliminary results. J Clin Gastroenterol 2003;36:396-8. View abstract.
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Nakano M, Yoshida A, Wakabayashi H, et al. Effect of tablets containing lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase on gingival health in adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Periodontal Res. 2019 Dec;54(6):702-708. View abstract.
Ochoa TJ, Chea-Woo E, Baiocchi N, et al. Randomized double-blind controlled trial of bovine lactoferrin for prevention of diarrhea in children. J Pediatr. 2013;162(2):349-56. View abstract.
Ochoa TJ, Loli S, Mendoza K, et al. Effect of bovine lactoferrin on prevention of late-onset sepsis in infants <1500g: a pooled analysis of individual patient data from two randomized controlled trials. Biochem Cell Biol. 2020 Sep 15. View abstract.
Oda H, Miyakawa M, Mizuki M, et al. Effects of lactoferrin on subjective skin conditions in winter: A preliminary, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. 2019 Dec 2;12:875-880. View abstract.
Oda H, Wakabayashi H, Tanaka M, et al. Effects of lactoferrin on infectious diseases in Japanese summer: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. J Microbiol Immunol Infect. 2020 Feb 26:S1684-1182(20)30038-4. View abstract.
Okada S, Tanaka K, Sato T, et al. Dose-response trial of lactoferrin in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Jpn J Cancer Res 2002;93:1063-9. View abstract.
Otsuki K, Tokunaka M, Oba T, Nakamura M, Shirato N, Okai T. Administration of oral and vaginal prebiotic lactoferrin for a woman with a refractory vaginitis recurring preterm delivery: appearance of lactobacillus in vaginal flora followed by term delivery. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2014;40(2):583-5. View abstract.
Pacora P, Maymon E, Gervasi MT, et al. Lactoferrin in intrauterine infection, human parturition, and rupture of fetal membranes. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2000;183:904-10. View abstract.
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Puddu P, Borghi P, Gessani S, et al. Antiviral effect of bovine lactoferrin saturated with metal ions on early steps of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 1998;30:1055-62. View abstract.
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Saraceno R, Gramiccia T, Chimenti S, Valenti P, Pietropaoli M, Bianchi L. Topical lactoferrin can improve stable psoriatic plaque. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2014;149(3):335-40. View abstract.
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Tong PL, West NP, Cox AJ, et al. Oral supplementation with bovine whey-derived Ig-rich fraction and lactoferrin improves SCORAD and DLQI in atopic dermatitis. J Dermatol Sci. 2017;85(2):143-146. View abstract.
Troost FJ, Saris WH, Brummer RJ. Orally ingested human lactoferrin is digested and secreted in the upper gastrointestinal tract in vivo in women with ileostomies. J Nutr 2002;132:2597-600. View abstract.
Troost FJ, Saris WH, Brummer RJ. Recombinant human lactoferrin ingestion attenuates indomethacin-induced enteropathy in vivo in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003;57:1579-85. View abstract.
Tsukahara T, Fujimori A, Misawa Y, et al. The preventive effect of lactoferrin-containing yogurt on gastroenteritis in nursery school children-intervention study for 15 weeks. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Apr 7;17(7):2534. View abstract.
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Vetrugno V. Safety of milk and milk derivatives in relation to BSE: the lactoferrin example. Biometals 2004;17:353-6. View abstract.
Vitetta L, Coulson S, Beck SL, Gramotnev H, Du S, Lewis S. The clinical efficacy of a bovine lactoferrin/whey protein Ig-rich fraction (Lf/IgF) for the common cold: a double blind randomized study. Complement Ther Med. 2013;21(3):164-71. View abstract.
Vorland LH, Ulvatne H, Andersen J, et al. Lactoferricin of bovine origin is more active than lactoferricins of human, murine and caprine origin. Scand J Infect Dis 1998;30:513-7. View abstract.
Yamauchi K, Wakabayashi H, Hashimoto S, et al. Effects of orally administered bovine lactoferrin on the immune system of healthy volunteers. Adv Exp Med Biol 1998;443:261-5. View abstract.
Zhang GH, Mann DM, Tsai CM. Neutralization of endotoxin in vitro and in vivo by a human lactoferrin-derived peptide. Infect Immun 1999;67:1353-8. View abstract.
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