Lactoferrin: what it is for

Lactoferrin: what it is for

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There lactoferrin it's a natural iron binding glycoprotein with a molecular weight of 80 kda. It can be found in the milk of many mammals, including humans and cows, as well as saliva, tears, and other secretions.

The lactoferrin protein is made up of two lobes. In each lobe, a ferric ion (Fe3 +) is bonded to the bottom of a deep slit. At neutral pH, iron is extremely tightly bound to the protein; in an acidic environment, iron is released.

There are three forms of lactoferrin depending on its iron saturation level: apo-lactoferrin (without iron), a monopheric form (one Fe3 +) and holo-lactoferrin (two Fe3 + bound). The ability to bind iron is the basis of many functions of lactoferrins and also gives rise to its characteristic pink color.

But why did we choose to dedicate an in-depth study to lactoferrin? Why is lactoferrin so important?

What is lactoferrin used for

There lactoferrin it's a important component of the body's immune system. It is released by certain types of white blood cells at the sites of inflammation, and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity.

The first time lactoferrin was intercepted and studied was in the late 1930s in cattle. However, it was only in the 1960s that lactoferrin was fully identified, fueling growing research by scholars.

The functions of lactoferrin

There are numerous researches that confirm the beneficial properties of lactoferrin, such as its ability to help reduce acne, prevent iron deficiency in pregnancy, support bone growth and aid brain and cognitive development.

In particular, the positive functions of lactoferrin are mainly attributable to:

  • development of children's health,
  • support for healthy immune function,
  • antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties,
  • support of healthy intestinal flora and digestive health,
  • regulation of iron absorption and metabolism,
  • antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

Emerging research also indicates that lactoferrin may also directly support infant brain development and learning ability.

Lactoferrin and bone health

Among the main advantages of hiring lactoferrin there is certainly that of promoting better bone health.

Let us remember, in this sense, how bone cells are continuously renewed in humans, regardless of age. Two different types of bone cells are involved in this process: the osteoclasts, which absorb the bone, and the osteoblasts, which form new bone. At different ages, the activity of these two types of cells is different. In later life, the condition known as osteoporosis is caused when bone resorption is greater than bone formation, resulting in bone loss.

Well, it is also known that milk provides nourishment at a time of very rapid skeletal growth and therefore lactoferrin has been studied as potentially capable of having growth effects on bone. Research over the last decade has found that lactoferrin helps support bone growth, with a double effect: it not only reduces the activity of osteoclasts, but also activates osteoblasts to increase bone formation. Currently, these effects have only been tested in animal studies, but it is likely that these benefits could also be assumed in humans in the future.

Lactoferrin and skin health

Among other studies of major interest on lactoferrin, we note that its consumption has been proven to be effective in reduce acne lesions and skin inflammation. In one study, for example, patients aged 18 to 30 years were randomly involved in two samples: one was given fermented milk with 200 mg of lactoferrin per day, while the second group (placebo) was tato made to ingest only fermented milk.

Well, at the end of the twelve weeks of experimentation, in the group that consumed milk fermented with lactoferrin, acne showed an improvement thanks to a significant decrease in the count of inflammatory lesions (38.6%), in the count of total lesions (23 , 1%) and the degree of acne (20.3%) compared to the placebo group.

Lactoferrin and children's health

There lactoferrin it's a protein very abundant in breast milk. Its quantities are at its peak during breastfeeding, and it is at this early stage of childhood that it plays its most important role in improving infant nutrition.

Lactoferrin is in fact able to help a positive transfer of iron to children, a very important mineral in the development of a healthy brain. It is also believed to aid the developing infant's immune system, as well as help prevent infections through its powerful antimicrobial effects, thus providing toddlers with strong defense against diseases that cause bacteria and viruses. Emerging research indicates that lactoferrin may also directly support infant brain development and learning ability.

In addition, lactoferrin supports the development of the digestive system and promotes the growth of good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium, also supporting the growth of intestinal cells.

Compared to human breast milk, cow's milk has less lactoferrin. Artificial milk is therefore often supplemented with extra lactoferrin to bring its level closer to that of human breast milk.

Video: Lactoferrin (May 2022).