Lactoferrin: What Is It? What Does It Do? Where Do You Get It?

Lactoferrin is an essential protein found in milk. What are the benefits of lactoferrin?I’m amazed by all of the questions that I see asking about lactoferrin.

  • What is lactoferrin?
  • What is lactoferrin for?
  • What are the benefits of taking lactoferrin?
  • Is lactoferrin good for you?
  • Where do you get lactoferrin?

I’m going to spend a few minutes explaining what lactoferrin is and answer each of these questions.

What Is Lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin is a protein that is found in most of the fluids in the human body – milk, tears, and saliva for example. It’s primary function there is as part of the immune system. Lactoferrin has antimicrobial abilities. It can help to fight off bacteria and fungi and prevent them from entering the body.

The name lactoferrin comes from milk (lacto), where it was originally found by scientists back in the 1930’s, and iron (ferrin), which it easily binds with and transports through the body. If you are interested in really big words with Latin origins you can read all the scientific descriptions of lactoferrin on Wikipedia. I’m going to try to keep my words much simpler and use plain English here.

Human colostrum, the first milk that a baby receives from its mother, has the highest concentration of lactoferrin, followed by human milk then cow’s milk.

What Are the Benefits of Taking Lactoferrin?

I wrote another post a few years ago about the benefits of lactoferrin in the body and included links to research that was reported on PubMed. You are welcome to read that post to get at the science. I will just cover some of the benefits below.

I mentioned above that lactoferrin has antibacterial and antifungal effects. This is thought to be a side-effect of lactoferrin’s main job of binding with free iron in the body. Bacteria, especially the harmful kind to us humans, has a voracious appetite for iron. Lactoferrin binds with that free iron making it unavailable to the bacteria and essentially starves it.

Lactoferrin as a Prebiotic

Similarly, lactoferrin supports our digestive system as a prebiotic. A lot of our digestion is through the assistance of the bacteria in our gut. You may think that is gross, but there you go. Depending on what you eat and what medications you take, it is easy to through off the balance between harmful and beneficial bacteria. Some antibiotics kill off bacteria indiscriminately, killing both the good buys and the bad guys. Because of the harmful bacteria’s need for iron, lactoferrin can help to make sure that the good bacteria gain the upper hand.

Lactoferrin as an Antivirus

Lactoferrin also appears to have some antiviral effects. Again, lactoferrin’s job is to grab up the free iron in our bodies and carry it to the cells where it can be used. Lactoferrin helps with viruses by getting in their way.

Think of the cells in your body as little warehouses. All warehouses have loading docks where trucks pull up to load and unload their cargo. It turns out that lactoferrin and some viruses require the use of the same specific loading docks at each of your cells, and lactoferrin gets priority.

To get you sick a virus docks with a cell, offloads its own DNA into the cell, then forces the cell to massively replicate that DNA to create more of the virus. Eventually it overwhelms your body’s immune system. If a virus cannot dock with a cell, it cannot replicate and make you sick, and the longer that the virus floats free the higher the chance that your body’s white blood cells and other defenses will catch it and destroy it.

Bone Health

Lactoferrin has an effect on regulating bone growth and resorption. Resorption is the process through which the body breaks down bone to use the material for other purposes. For example, the body may need to free up some calcium to buffer acidic blood or to help regulate your heart beat. This is all perfectly normal.

When too much bone is broken down though, you end up with weak or brittle bones and all of the problems that come with that. Lactoferrin can help to make sure that the resorption process stays in balance.

Where Do You Get Lactoferrin and Is it Good for You?

If you have read this far then you should know by now that lactoferrin is good for you. They only real question is where you can get it from. You can find lactoferrin in milk. You don’t usually find human milk for sale, so cow’s milk is the most common place for us to find it.

If you happen to be lactose intolerant, or otherwise allergic to milk, then you will want to find a good lactoferrin supplement. Lactoferrin is a protein in the milk and doesn’t involve either the milk sugar (lactose) or the fat. A good lactoferrin supplement should be perfectly safe for you to use regardless of any other challenges you may have with milk.

I get my lactoferrin supplement from Nikken – Kenzen Lactoferrin 2.0. Their lactoferrin is very refined.

Nikken has a bone density supplement, OsteoDenx, that contains another form of lactoferrin specifically intended to support natural bone growth.

Disclaimer and Disclosure

Lactoferrin can have many benefits in the body. I make no claims at all regarding the benefits that you will actually receive from taking a lactoferrin supplement.

I am a Nikken distributor and may receive a commission if you order your lactoferrin supplement through any of the links on this page.

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6 Responses to Lactoferrin: What Is It? What Does It Do? Where Do You Get It?

  1. Chris Hooker says:

    Hey Ben, I’ve finally got around to checking out your blog; there are just so many to read and comment on. I agree with Donna re Lactoferrin, I simply wasn’t aware of it, I wonder if it removed in the ‘skimming’ process (as in Skim milk?). I know a lot of people that use it for the fat reduction (skim that is) perhaps they are missing out on Lactoferrin at the same time?
    I’m one of those lucky people, good genes I suppose, just never get ill or sick unless something breaks or wears out.
    I’ll be back!

    • Ben says:

      Thanks for stopping in Chris. I agree. There are a lot of good blogs out there with great information to read. I appreciate you taking the time to visit mine. I don’t think the lactoferrin gets removed in skim milk because all they should be removing is the fat. I believe the body should produce most of the lactoferrin that we need normally. We have a gene for it. There are additional benefits to supplementing if you need it.

  2. HI Ben,

    Every time I visit you I learn something new. I’ve never heard of Lactoferrin but you sure give a good explanation of it. You pulled me in when you mentioned that it was good for bones.

    I don’t eat meat or dairy and I think this will be a good fit for me. Going over to find out more…


    • Ben says:

      Hi Donna. I’m glad that you’re learning things here. I learn from your blog every week too. I put lactoferrin in the same category as vitamin D because it plays a part in so many different things. Thanks for being a regular visitor for the past few weeks. I appreciate you taking the time.

  3. Psychic Nest says:

    I have not heard much about lactoferrin so thank you so much for this informative article. I didn’t know that you can find it in human fluids but I was aware of finding it in human milk.

    Although there are many controversial topics about cow milk and how it affects the human body, I still prefer drinking two cups of it during the day because of how beneficial I find it. Thank you for sharing this great information!


    • Ben says:

      Hi Zaria. The way I see it, if you find benefit in drinking cow’s milk then you probably do get benefit from drinking it. If you think drinking it is dangerous, then it probably is. The belief makes it so. You can see what I wrote about placebos and nocebos a few weeks ago. Scientists are learning so much about nutrition and the human body that the recommendations change every day. Then you get for-profit corporations, politicians, and lobbyists involved and you don’t know who to believe. It’s better to do what you think is right.

      BTW, your website looks interesting. I will checkout some of your articles later.

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