What is Lactoferrin?
Lactoferrin is an iron-binding and iron-modulating protein found in bovine milk and even more prevalent in our whey protein concentrate. Lactoferrin resides in the chemical family called cytokines. This family of chemicals coordinates the body’s cellular immune defensive response that protects us from most infections, tumors and cancers. They also boost the activity of T-cells and stimulate production of immunoglobulins. Without these cytokines our immune system suffers and reacts by creating an over-active immune response. It is our body’s first defense, protecting orifices such as the eyes, mouth and nose from bacterial infection.
Lactoferrin and Iron Modulation
Lactoferrin is a very important bioactive molecule which can provide iron to those cells in need, and limit it to those in excess, thus maintaining an iron homeostasis within the body.
Iron deficiency is a fairly common disorder, affecting billions of people a year. The result of iron deficiency can lead to extreme 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 and pretty much agreed upon across the board. Common sufferers of iron deficiency include (but are not limited to) women, children, vegetarians, and many studies conclude, high endurance athletes. The body does not easily assimilate iron (or lactoferrin) in a denatured state (highly processed) which is how it is presented in many bovine dietary supplements. With these supplements, high amounts are required for any benefit to arise. Our Proserum® whey protein concentrate is an non-denatured whey protein supplement that is minimally processed to maintain the bioavailability of the lactoferrin.
On the flip side excess iron is a risk as well, although not as common. Some complications associated with this disorder are: bacterial infections, diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders and even iron-toxicity. A lot of these complications arise from the body’s ingestion of unbound iron. Iron that is bound to lactoferrin is much easier to absorb and utilize, and is not lost through human excretions or through other organisms in the body. Iron not bound in the body is a catalyst for the production of free radicals, which have a negative effect on the body’s biology. Lactoferrin is an important part of the body’s natural defense system. Studies show that it inhibits the binding of pathogens like H. pylori and E. coli to the intestinal wall. Many micro-organisms need iron for growth and by limiting the levels of free iron, lactoferrin can actually inhibit bacterial growth. The pathogens cellular structure loses its integrity because of the iron deprivation and necrosis ensues.
The first major entrance of lactoferrin on the health scene was prompted by a paper written by an AIDS researcher discussing the importance of lactoferrin as a regulator of the immune response in people with AIDS. Recent studies have shown that lactoferrin can also inhibit the growth of the HIV virus.
There have been many other studies proving lactoferrin to be a very beneficial substance. The antibacterial properties have been documented very well. 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. Another well documented study by the National Cancer Institute in Tokyo, Japan concluded that bovine lactoferrin inhibits the Hepatitis C infection in human cells. This is of major importance because Hepatitis C has been found to be the main causative factor in chronic viral hepatitis. Lactoferrin seems to inhibit the absorption of the viral particle to the human cell by binding to the cell receptor site or to the virus.
Lactoferrin has a broad range of benefits, with new discoveries being made daily. It enhances and modulates immune system function and provides many iron-enhancing and modulating benefits. It has also been said to act as an immunostimulator 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 many differing ways. It inhibits many viruses from thriving in the body and is a very important component in immune-therapy. Our Vital Whey ® and ImmunoPro® products provide an excellent source of non-denatured lactoferrin in its most biologically available state.