A protein that is found in milk, tears, mucus, bile, and some white blood cells and is being studied in the treatment and prevention of cancer. It is involved in fighting against infection and inflammation and it acts as an antioxidant.
Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein that belongs to the iron transporter or transferrin family. It was originally isolated from bovine milk, where it is found as a minor protein component of whey proteins. Lactoferrin contains 703 amino acids.
Lactoferrin can be purified from milk or produced recombinantly. Human colostrum has the highest concentration, followed by human milk, then cows' milk. In addition to its presence in milk, it is also found in exocrine secretions of mammals and is released from neutrophil granules during inflammation.
Lactoferrin is considered a multi-tasking protein, playing several biological roles. Owing to its iron-binding properties, lactoferrin is thought to play a role in iron uptake by the intestinal mucosa of a newborn. That is, it appears to be the source of iron for breast-fed infants. It also appears to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory activities.
There is some preliminary evidence from in vitro and animal research that supplemental lactoferrin may have some immune-enhancing effects. There is no evidence that it is effective as a treatment or preventive in any form of cancer. Neither is there any credible evidence to support claims that it helps those with fatigue or allergy.
Oral lactoferrin dosed at 40mg daily has been used in a couple of clinical trials of the substance. Those who supplement with lactoferrin typically take 250mg daily. Lactoferrin is also found in whey protein supplements.
Researchers Ikeda, M. et al from the National Cancer Institute in Japan report that bovine lactoferrin directly binds to the HCV and effectively prevented hepatitis C in cultured human hepatocytes cell lines. They report on experiments which show that Lactoferrin directly binds to HCV and not to the infected cells. Other research has confirmed that lactoferrin binds to HCV and a number of other viruses. Lactoferrin is also a natural component of human mother's milk which is also effective against HCV. Lactoferrin is available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Adult dosage levels are usually 1000 to 1500mg or more daily. No adverse effects have been reported.
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