What is Lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin is a protein fraction found in cow’s milk that is important for iron regulation and immunity. It may also be key to preventing many health conditions including diabetes, cancer and hepatitis C. Considering of these benefits, we’re happy to inform you that you can find prevalent quantities of bovine lactoferrin in our whey protein concentrate.

Lactoferrin belongs to a chemical family called cytokines that coordinate the body’s cellular immune defensive response to protect us from bacteria, viruses, tumors and cancers. Cytokines also boost the activity of T-cells and stimulate the production of immunoglobulins. Without lactoferrin and other cytokines, our immune system suffers and reacts by creating an over-active immune response. Found mostly in mucous membranes and fluids such as tears, lactoferrin is part of the body’s first defense, protecting orifices such as the eyes, mouth and nose from possible infection.

Lactoferrin Benefits

Lactoferrin has many important benefits for health, nutrient absorption, the immune system and even possibly preventing disease. Here are a few of the research-backed lactoferrin benefits.

Bovine Lactoferrin

Lactoferrin and Iron Modulation

Lactoferrin is a very important bioactive molecule that provides iron to cells that are in need, and limits it to those in excess, thus maintaining iron homeostasis, or balance, within the body.

Iron deficiency is a fairly common disorder, affecting billions of people every year. Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia, characterized by fatigue, lethargy, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. The role of iron in a well-functioning body and immune system is well documented. Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, which helps red blood cells carry and transport oxygen throughout your body. Common sufferers of iron deficiency include (but are not limited to) women, children, vegetarians and high endurance athletes.

On the flip side, excess iron is a risk as well, even though it’s not as common as deficiency. Some complications associated with this disorder are: bacterial infections, diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders and even iron-toxicity. Because lactoferrin can help maintain proper iron balance in the body, its presence is important in preventing iron-overload.

It’s important to note that the body does not easily assimilate iron or lactoferrin in a denatured (highly processed) state, which is how it is presented in many whey protein supplements. With these supplements, high amounts are required for any benefit. Our Proserum® protein found in all our Vital Whey products is a non-denatured, protein supplement that is minimally processed to maintain the bioavailability and benefits of lactoferrin.

Lactoferrin and Immunity

Lactoferrin plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Its ability to bind iron helps to strengthen the body’s defense system, since iron that is not bound can serve as a catalyst for the production of free radicals. Free radicals are toxic by-products produced in oxygen metabolism. They damage our cells, the proteins in our body and our DNA by creating “stress” and inflammation. A bovine lactoferrin supplement has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity and properties.

Lactoferrin and Metabolic Disorder

Could lactoferrin be a key component in the fight against obesity and metabolic syndrome? A study published in 2012 found that administration of bovine lactoferrin decreased the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome including waist circumference, body weight, triglycerides and cholesterol. A more recent 2017 study found that lactoferrin improved metabolism and decreased adiposity independent of calorie intake.

Lactoferrin and Gut health

Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is the leading cause of hospital-acquired infectious diarrhea and can potentially be fatal. Globally, it is a major healthcare concern, with the cost to treat infected patients constantly rising. It’s possible that bovine lactoferrin could be used as a supplement to the standard antimicrobial treatments for CDI or it could be used alone to potentially delay or inhibit its growth.

In addition to CDI, studies have shown that bovine lactoferrin can inhibit the binding of pathogens like H. pylori, a common cause of gastric ulcers, and E. coli to the intestinal wall. A study by the Institute of Public Health in Tokyo, Japan showed that E. coli 0157:H7 can falter under influence of the antimicrobial effects of bovine lactoferrin.

Lactoferrin and HIV

The first major entrance of lactoferrin on the health scene was in the late 1990’s in regards to its importance as a regulator of the immune response in people with AIDS. Recent studies continue to show that lactoferrin can also inhibit the growth of the HIV virus. A study published in Amsterdam in 2002 demonstrated that bovine lactoferrin can significantly inhibit HIV by targeting the virus’s entry process. Researchers found similar results in 2014, showing that the inhibitory effects of lactoferrin on the HIV virus were dose dependent.

Lactoferrin and Hepatitis C

Another well documented benefit of bovine lactoferrin is its potential to inhibit the Hepatitis C virus in human cells. Hepatitis C is a major public health concern. According to the CDC, 2.4 million people are living with Hepatitis C infection in the United States alone. Lactoferrin seems to inhibit the absorption of the viral particle to the human cell by binding to the cell receptor sites or to the virus itself. In 2013, researchers found that bovine lactoferrin not only prevented the virus from entering the cells, but it also prevented replication of the virus as well.

Lactoferrin and Cancer

In addition to fighting viruses, another potential health benefit of bovine lactoferrin may be its ability to fight off cancer cells. One study demonstrated how bovine lactoferrin had a necrotic effect on the tumors in oral squamous cells carcinoma in mice. It may also be beneficial in the treatment of colon cancer. Researchers found that certain properties of bovine lactoferrin created specific signaling that suppress tumor growth. Further research is needed to understand how lactoferrin may play a role in fighting cancer.


It’s clear that lactoferrin has a broad range of health benefits, with new discoveries being made daily. It enhances and modulates immune system function and provides many iron-enhancing benefits. It has also been said to act as an immuno-stimulator in the digestive system, as well as an inhibitor of the growth of many unhealthy micro-organisms in the digestive tract. Lactoferrin regulates the immune response of the body in a multitude of ways. It inhibits many viruses from thriving in the body and may be beneficial in the treatment of HIV, hepatitis C and cancer.  Our Vital Whey® and ImmunoPro® products provide an excellent source of non-denatured lactoferrin in its most biologically available state.

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