What can Lactoferrin be used for?

As a monopreparation, Lactoferrin can be used for the following areas of application below. In combined use, it works together effectively with other substances and shows clear synergistic and potentiating effects for certain situations.

Areas of application:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Infections
  • Periodontitis (bacterial inflammation at the base of the tooth) and gingivitis (bacterial gum inflammation)
  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD)
  • Allergies
  • Support for wound healing/tissue regeneration
  • Cancer
  • Overweight/Metabolic syndrome
  • Acne
  • Neonatal sepsis and necrotising enterocolitis (NEC)

 Dosage advice

Please see below.

Prophylaxis and therapy in iron deficiency

As a natural transport protein of iron ions, Lactoferrin is able to significantly influence iron uptake, distribution and delivery.  Lactoferrin exists bound to iron, and the iron can be absorbed by the body after degradation of the Lactoferrin.  Lactoferrin is suitable in the prophylaxis of iron deficiency as well as supporting therapy. Lactoferrin has been shown to be safer and more effective than simply supplementing with iron [1]. 
A 2017 meta-analysis examined the efficacy of Lactoferrin as compared to iron supplements for the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) during pregnancy [2]. Lactoferrin was able to help improve haematological parameters just as well as ferrous sulphate, with fewer gastrointestinal side effects. The authors recommended Lactoferrin as an iron replacement of choice, for the treatment of IDA in pregnancy [2].
Lactoferrin also increased the number of red blood cells and serum ferritin levels to a greater extent than ferrous sulphate. The administration of Lactoferrin also reduced IL-6 concentration, in comparison to an increase in IL-6 linked to the ferrous sulphate [1,3].

Health support during infection

Lactoferrin can be used therapeutically both for the risk reduction and treatment of infectious diseases, as well as for promoting health. Lactoferrin-enhanced immune system responses („immune response“) can help eliminate pathogens, alleviate symptoms and maintain homeostasis in infectious diseases [4-6].

Lactoferrin in viral infections 

The effectiveness of Lactoferrin in the fight against viruses is particularly noteworthy. Lactoferrin is a highly present „Gate-keeper“ at our barriers working to combat viruses.
In-vitro studies, and in-vivo studies in humans, confirm strong antiviral activity of Lactoferrin against DNA and RNA viruses. In particular, Hepatitis, Rotavirus, Herpes [7] and HIV [8], but also various Influenza viruses [9].
In 2011, a research group at Peking University published a study showing the effect of Lactoferrin in the SARS-associated Coronavirus, which caused the SARS pandemic in 2002/2003 [10]. Several studies have also shown that Lactoferrin can inhibit infection from Norovirus, HIV, Herpes, Coronavirus, Influenza and many others, at different stages of the process, from penetration to spread [8,11].
Lactoferrin shows a synergistic effect, when used in combination with antiviral drugs such as Zidovudin (HIV-1), Cidofovir (Cytomegalovirus), Acyclovir (Herpes simplex type 1 and 2) and Interferon, Ribavirin (Hepatitis C virus) and Remdesivir (a candidate in COVID-19 treatment) [12,15].

Lactoferrin in bacterial infections 

Lactoferrin can prevent cells from being infected by bacteria by preventing their adhesion to the cell. It is active in all stages of an infection [16-18].
Examples of the antibacterial effect of Lactoferrin from in-vitro and in-vivo studies involve: Chlamydia [19], Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus [20], Helicobacter sp., Streptococcus sp., Escherichia coli [21], Salmonella sp., Shigella dysenteriae, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus sp., Proteus vulgaris, Clostridium sp. [22], Legionella pneumoniae, Shigella, Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Enterobacter sp., Micrococcus sp., Vibrio sp. [14,23-25].

Lactoferrin inhibits Helicobacter Pylori 

Human studies have shown that Lactoferrin inhibits Helicobacter in the bowel, detaching it from the mucosa and exerting a direct antibacterial effect on it [26]. 
2009 meta-analysis confirmed that administration of Lactoferrin improves Helicobacter pylori eradication rates without adverse effects [27]. In fact, there are useful synergies: the administration of 200 mg of Lactoferrin alone was able to significantly increase the effectiveness of the Triple Therapy against Helicobacter pylori [28]. This suggests that there could potentially be a synergistic effect with other antibiotics [29,30].
In addition, Lactoferrin has a positive influence on the side effects associated with Helicobacter pylori therapy [28].

Lactoferrin in fungal and parasitic infections 

Lactoferrin has also been successful in treating different fungi and parasites. These include Tinus pedis (a foot fungal infection) [31], Candida [32], Toxoplasma gondii [33], Pneumocystis carinii [34] and Entamoeba histolytica [35].
For example, the growth of the Candidosis-causing fungi Candida albicans and C. glabrata, was inhibited by Lactoferrin over several hours [36-38].
Additive, or synergistic, effects were seen when Lactoferrin was used in combination with antimycotic drugs (Clotrimazole, Fluconazole) and antiparasitic medications [13,14].

Supportive treatment of periodontitis and gingivitis

The properties of Lactoferrin are also useful in the treatment of infection problems of the mouth and throat.  
The growth of Tanerella forsythia and Porphyromonas gingivalis, which are involved in gingivitis, can be reduced by Lactoferrin [39].  Study results show an anti-biofilm activity of Lactoferrin against periodontal bacteria, and demonstrate its use in the prevention and treatment of periodontal diseases, or as an adjunct to therapy [40]. A 4-week implementation of Lactoferrin orally, significantly improved all markers such as plaque, pocket depth and inflammation [41].
Background: Lactoferrin keeps the so-called biofilm in the mouth in check and ensures that the bad bacteria and viruses do not get out of control. Biofilm in the form of dental plaque is difficult to remove. Due to its protein cleavage effect, Lactoferrin is well suited to break down these persistent biofilms and can thus help prevent periodontitis development [42].

Reduction of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD)

For chest infections, tonsilitis, and other infections, antibiotics are still the treatment of choice. However, any antibiotic treatment also affects the diversity of the microbiome – and thus the intestinal mucosa. The result is, among other things, is poor formation of fatty acids and a reduced resorption of electrolytes and water: the result being watery diarrhoea [43]. 
With its antibacterial properties and probiotic effects on symbiotic bacteria, Lactoferrin can positively influence the microbial imbalance (dysbiosis) and restore balance in the intestine in the event of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.  The benefits apply in both adults and children.

Symptom relief in allergies 

Lactoferrin relieves allergic reactions by regulating the immune system and inhibiting inflammatory mediators. In-vitro studies have shown that Lactoferrin also slows down histamine release [44]. 
Unlike some other preparations, Lactoferrin-based products do not have a sedative effect, and are very well tolerated in both children and adults [44].

Support for wound healing and regeneration

An important function of Lactoferrin is support for cell proliferation, and the ability to stimulate the regeneration and formation of new cells, kick-starting the body’s healing processes. This also includes repair processes in the metabolic system, which may benefit diabetes patients with non-healing wounds. Wound healing processes in mucosal tissue, such as oral mucosa, concluded faster when treated with Lactoferrin [45]. Patients with bone necrosis, where the bone tissue dies off, may also be treated with Lactoferrin to promote a faster wound healing [46].

Positive effects in cancer prevention and treatment

In the context of cancer prevention and treatment, Lactoferrin has shown various successes. Several studies have shown that Lactoferrin can significantly inhibit cancer formation in different organs (intestines, oesophagus and lungs) [47,48]. The formation of metastases was seen to be restricted by the administration of Lactoferrin, and immunity was increased.  Lactoferrin showed activity preventing the formation and growth of human breast cancer cells [49]. 
Protective effects in people during chemotherapy could be confirmed in lung, oesophageal, bladder and tongue cancers [50,51]. 
Between 40 – 100% of cancer patients suffer from anaemia and iron deficiency: because of the cancer, the treatment, or both. Often the oncologist has no choice but to supplement iron, orally or intravenously.  The downside Is that this intervention can „feed“ the cancer and can lead to negative side effects. Lactoferrin effectively counteracts anaemia via iron redistribution, without feeding the tumour, but rather, depriving it of iron [1].

Promising use in obesity/metabolic syndrome

Lactoferrin is also a promising component in the fight against obesity and metabolic syndrome, having a positive impact on the various risk factors for metabolic syndrome.
Studies have shown that the visceral fat may be reduced by taking Lactoferrin [52]. Additionally, improvement in the effect of the hormone insulin [53], an increase in energy consumption and an activation of brown adipose tissue [54] have been observed. The regulation of the intestinal flora by Lactoferrin also had positive effects on fat and glucose metabolism [55,56]. 

Supportive treatment in acne 

Acne is one of the most common skin diseases that affects most of the population, at least once in their lifetime. 
A study examined patients with acne taking Lactoferrin. It was able to show a reduction in the number of acne lesions, the grade of acne, the number of inflammatory lesions and the amount of sebum. The researchers also noted a reduction in triacylglycerols (a type of fat) in the skin surface [57].

Neonatal sepsis and necrotising enterocolitis (NEC)

Lactoferrin has proven effective in combating infections and improving the body’s own defences.  Extensive research has been done in the area of neonatal sepsis and necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) in newborns.
Oral administration of Lactoferrin in premature infants can reduce the rate of occurrence of sepsis (late-onset form) and enteric infections, without side-effects [58,59].
Study authors regularly point out the safety of the Lactoferrin intervention as an important result.  This is a common finding in the research, regardless of the outcome [60]. 

Dosage instructions

Lactoferrin can be taken in quite high amounts. However, the dosage should always be agreed with the General Practitioner. In the case of diagnosed iron deficiency anaemia (anaemia), the recommendation is 200 mg to 500 mg daily. In other areas of use, such as periodontitis or acne, the dosage should be adjusted according to individual needs, in consultation with the attending physician. As with all reputable products, instructions regarding dosage can also be found in the package leaflet.