Lactoferrin Starves Viruses into Submission
Though it sounds like an outlandish 1950s B-movie, it’s true: Lactoferrin can help starve viruses and bacteria into submission.
Lactoferrin (LF) is found at all the entry points of our bodies and is a vital part of our immune systems. It’s also a key component of mother’s milk and can be extracted from cow’s milk as a nutraceutical ingredient. The clue to its hero status is in Lactoferrin’s name – lacto (milk) and ferrin (iron). One of Lactoferrin’s clever roles within the body is that it binds iron to itself – it’s a bi-lobed protein, with each lobe having the ability to bind an atom of iron.
How does that help defend us against viruses and bacteria? Iron is an essential nutrient for pathogens, allowing them to survive and thrive in the body. Take that iron food source away – by binding it to Lactoferrin, for example – and the germs struggle to spread. This gives the body the time it needs to mobilise against the infection.
In a study published last year called The Biology of Lactoferrin, an Iron-Binding Protein That Can Help Defend Against Viruses and Bacteria, the authors explain how supplementing with lactoferrin can support our immunity. Lactoferrin acts not only as an antibacterial and antiviral agent but may also be of preventative and therapeutic value during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lactoferrin is an important player in the immune system”
So says Douglas Kell from the department of Biochemistry at the University of Liverpool, one of the authors of the paper. “In the context of its iron-binding capabilities, it means that when it binds iron, it limits the availability of essential iron to microbes. Its ability to limit iron availability to microbes is one of its crucial antimicrobial properties.”
Lactoferrin has other major functions in the body, such as enhancing natural killer cell activity when we need it most, decreasing inflammation and restricting the entry of the virus into host cells when there’s an infection. “In COVID-19 infection, LF may have a role to play in not only sequestering iron and inflammatory molecules that are severely increased during the cytokine burst, but also possibly in assisting in occupying receptors and Heparan sulphate proteoglycans to prevent the virus binding.”
Lactoferrin’s iron-binding capability has other upsides as well. It is a scientifically proven alternative to high-dose iron supplements for those with anaemia, a common nutritionally influenced condition. Iron plays a vital role in transporting oxygen around the body, and a lack of iron can cause dizziness, tiredness, pale skin and a poor immune function. Supplementing with iron tablets can cause gastrointestinal side effects, however – particularly at the high doses required. And so: Lactoferrin to the rescue again.
Lactoferrin appears to improve iron absorption from food and helps to transport this essential mineral to where it’s needed. A study from 2009 looked at 100 expectant mothers, half of which took 100mg of lactoferrin twice daily, while the other 50 were given 520mg of ferrous sulfate daily. After one month, both groups showed similar increase in serum ferritin, haemoglobin and iron, but the group receiving the ferrous sulfate reported significantly greater rates of abdominal pain and constipation that those taking just Lactoferrin.
Though Lactoferrin is little-known, this natural and safe remedy extracted from cow’s milk offers a number of therapeutic benefits – its iron-binding action being one of its greatest superpowers. Every tablet of Leapfrog IMMUNE contains 250mg of lactoferrin – take it at the onset of a cold, and see for yourself how differently that cold plays out!