Lactoferrin is a protein found in breast milk, which is also found in saliva and tears. It is important because it has an antimicrobial action and protects newborns from gastrointestinal infections.
Lactoferrin and the immune system
There lactoferrin it’s a glycoprotein which is naturally contained in abundant quantities in the breast milk, and especially in the colostrum, the secretion that the newborn eats in the first days of life, which favors the development of beneficial bacteria of the intestinal flora and strengthens the immune system.
Traces of this particular protein are also found in other fluids, such as saliva, tears, mucous membranes and immune cells that counteract the proliferation of fungi and bacteria within the body.
It was discovered in 1939 in cow’s milk and its immunostimulating, antioxidant and anti-infective properties were immediately evident.
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Lactoferrin: what it is and what it is used for
There lactoferrin it is a protein found in the milk of all mammals, including humans. The breast milk it contains about 2 grams per liter. Lactoferrin, which is also found in saliva and tears, is known for its antimicrobial action and because it protects babies from gastrointestinal infections. Lactoferrin has recently been re-evaluated for its antioxidant, immunomodulatory and anti-infective properties.
In fact, lactoferrin is a good reserve of iron and it seems that it contributes to the functioning of the system immune against some types of external bacteria (antibacterial function). However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) specifies that this substance cannot be attributed to the ability to defend the organism from pathogens since the scientific evidence available is not sufficient.
Lactoferrin: where it is found and its functions
There lactoferrin is found:
- within the breast milk, especially in the colostrum, very rich in lactoferrin, which favors the development of beneficial intestinal bacteria, helping the little one to eradicate the pathogens responsible for gastroenteritis (colic of the newborn)
- in saliva and tears
- in neutrophil granulocytes, immune cells that defend the body from fungal and bacterial infections
There are many beneficial functions of lactoferrin:
- binds and carries iron and helps its absorption in the intestinal tract.
- confers innate immunity to children: plays a protective role against viruses, bacteria and fungi. In infants, it protects against bacterial infections that could develop with breastfeeding
- has antiviral effects: it manages to bind to the glycosaminoglycans of the plasma membrane, preventing the virus from entering the cell and infecting it. It is useful against a large number of viruses, blocking them at the initial stage of their proliferation, such as, for example, the Herpes virus, cytomegalovirus, HIV and cold and flu viruses;
- has an immunostimulating action: is able to support the body’s defenses, improving immune competence. It is useful both if taken in prevention and at the first manifestations of infection;
- has an antioxidant action: helps to counteract the activity of free radicals that cause aging and damage to the body’s structures. It works by maintaining the functionality of the organism and counteracting the proliferation of oxidative stress. This means that it contributes to maintaining the optimal functionality of the organism, making our personal soil stronger and less prone to developing diseases.
Lactoferrin: benefits and limitations
There bovine lactoferrin it is included in the Ministry of Health document “Other nutrients and other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect” and in particular in the list “Substances with defined maximum daily intake”, which for this substance is 200 mg.
In addition to being excellent iron reserve, bovine lactoferrin seems to have others beneficial properties for the human body, including contributing to the body’s natural defenses put in place by the immune system against various bacteria that can come from the outside world (antibacterial functions).
Bovine lactoferrin taken via supplements it is generally well tolerated by the body in both adults and children, but be careful not to overdo the doses because it could cause
- loss of appetite
In pregnancy is feeding time the intake of lactoferrin through thesupply (cow’s milk) is safe, while it is recommended to avoid taking it through supplements. In fact, we do not yet know what effects a greater consumption of lactoferrin can produce during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Lactoferrin and breastfeeding
There lactoferrin is contained in breast milk and thanks tobreastfeeding helps to increase the immune defenses of the newborn as it represents the main defense for the bacterial and viral infections in children (and not only) because it is able to stimulate an innate immune response in them.
Lactoferrin also promotes the development of beneficial intestinal bacteria which help prevent colic in the newborn, but not only. Lactoferrin contained in breast milk, especially in colostrum, protects newborns from infections as their immune systems …