Lactoferrin is a non-heme iron-binding glycoprotein, and accounts for 15 to 20% of the total protein in breast milk. It is the second most abundant whey protein in human milk, comprising approximately 25% of whey proteins (Rai et al., 2014). Mean lactoferrin levels in mature human milk were reported within a range of 0.44 – 4.4 g/L, whereas lower levels have been detected in mature bovine milk at a range of 0.03 – 0.1 g/L.
Lactoferrin has been shown to be involved in several physiological functions including the modulation of immune responses; the protection against microbial infection; antiinflammatory effects; antioxidant properties through iron binding; and the regulation of iron absorption in the bowel.
Lactoferrin (either alone or in combination with other ingredients) has been clinically shown to enhance resistance to pathogens in preterm very low birth weight neonates, healthy infants and children.
Lactoferrin has a multimodal mechanism of supporting the gut immune system. Extensive in vitro and animal studies have demonstrated the particular functions of lactoferrin in supporting gut health.
Lactoferrin is found in especially high levels in colostrum, the very early milk a mother produces to provide important immune protection for newborns during their first weeks.
Clinically, lactoferrin (either alone or in combination with other ingredients) was found to exert protection against gastrointestinal infections, and to reduce the incidence of diarrhea in multiple clinical trials.
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