Noelle Patno, PhD is an independent consultant for nutritional research. Dr Patno received her PhD in Molecular Metabolism and Nutrition and a Masters in Translational Science from the University of Chicago.
Her research involved studying the role of microbial components in intestinal epithelial cell survival related to inflammatory bowel disease. Prior to her graduate studies, Dr Patno worked as an engineer at Abbott and received a chemical engineering degree from Stanford University with honours and with distinction. She has researched and written two summaries on Lactoferrin, its benefits and potential as a nutraceutical, and here she speaks to Leapfrog’s founder, Stephanie Drax.
Can you tell us how Lactoferrin caught your interest?
My interest came from a personal experience as I looked for nutritional therapies to manage my cancer survivorship. I have been researching many ingredients for immune and gastrointestinal health for quite some time now. When I found out about Lactoferrin, I just kept reading and reading!
I read two summaries that you’ve written on Lactoferrin – why did you find it such a fascinating topic?
I thought it was very important to write the two summaries that you saw because of Lactoferrin’s binding ability for viruses, particularly SARS COV-2 because it was emerging at that time. Then there’s the fact of Lactoferrin being present abundantly in our bodies operating within the innate immune response, being released in neutrophils, and secreted in blood, tears, saliva, and more.
Lactoferrin was first identified as a milk protein in cow’s milk but then was later identified in mothers’ milk in humans. It has been seen in many studies in very low-weight babies that it has been very helpful for preventing sepsis and preventing death and even necrotising enterocolitis, proving how critical it is for babies.
And its iron absorption capacity is broad in its application. For example, how it can help the many women who have iron deficiency anaemia. I read recently that 50% of children and 40% of pregnant women and 30% of reproductive-aged women can be lacking in iron and could have trouble absorbing that iron. As an iron-binding protein, Lactoferrin is important for that iron absorption process and cooperates with many other iron-binding proteins for maintaining iron homeostasis, or balance. Having excess iron is detrimental, which often happens during inflammation and infection. Lactoferrin can bind to the iron and can decrease inflammation and infection.
Interestingly, scientists haven’t observed adverse events from the use of Lactoferrin. It’s generally recognised as safe and is widely available. The growing number of clinical studies have been showing many benefits, from babies to women and athletes and even in cases of hepatic inflammation and obesity.
Can you run us through the benefits of Lactoferrin?
It is quite a long list! While Lactoferrin is one of the iron-binding proteins and cooperates with others in iron metabolism activities, it leads to the production of energy, transportation or storage of oxygen, and even impacts drug detoxification. Lactoferrin is released from neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) as that first line of defence, and during exercise, Lactoferrin is also released. Even in tumour growth, Lactoferrin levels can be higher to deal with the inflammation.
Lactoferrin can bind to the receptors of cells all over the body, which can help fight viruses by preventing attachment to viruses. Lactoferrin can bind to iron, competing with bacteria because bacteria need iron to survive.
The list of pathogenic viruses that lactoferrin inhibits in vitro is a long list, including herpes simplex virus (type 1 and type 2), hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus (HCV), Japanese encephalitis virus and then some common viruses for the common cold, RSV which is a respiratory syncytial virus, and you have the flu viruses – influenza A virus, parainfluenza virus, and then poliovirus, cytomegalovirus, enterovirus 71 (the one that is responsible for hand, foot and mouth disease), norovirus (a common virus for gastroenteritis) rotavirus and even a more severe virus known as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Clinically, there have been studies showing reductions in infections, particularly in very low birth weight newborns. It’s so important for development in babies – for the development of their guts. As a major protein in milk, a foundational food for babies, it’s helpful for their intestinal development not only for digestion but also for defence.
We created Leapfrog IMMUNE as a chewable tablet. Do you have any thoughts on absorbing Lactoferrin through the mouth?
I have seen some studies on Lactoferrin with other ingredients in mouthwash to inhibit the growth of bacteria that could be in the mouth. There was a case report in which severe oral candidiasis was resolved by mouthwash containing bovine lactoferrin and lysozyme and I saw a small pilot study using a mouthwash containing lactoferrin, lysozyme, and lactoperoxidase which was a randomized, double-blinded and crossover trial. The mouth is where we encounter a lot of bacteria, so it’s relevant to have lactoferrin in the mouth.
Are there any clinical trials that you have come across that you’ve thought are robust?
There was a meta-analysis that found that oral ferrous sulphate was actually inferior to oral lactoferrin in daily supplementation in iron deficiency anaemia. Sometimes people feel nausea and other gastrointestinal side effects when taking iron supplements. The study showed an improvement in haemoglobin in four weeks. Lactoferrin not only performed better than oral ferrous sulphate tablets but with significantly fewer gastrointestinal side effects. Taking something like Lactoferrin, which doesn’t have terrible side effects, can be very beneficial for people with iron deficiency who often experience gastrointestinal side effects.
I was also interested in research on Lactoferrin on polyp growth rate in the intestine; there was a blinded, randomized controlled clinical trial showing that consumption of lactoferrin was associated with slowed growth rate of colorectal polyps.
Do you think Lactoferrin could be beneficial for women who are going through menopause?
I haven’t seen a study of Lactoferrin in women with menopause, but Lactoferrin is being studied preclinically in bone formation and seems promising for supporting bone growth. This is relevant for women who may lose bone, especially going through menopause.
Have you seen any studies on COVID and Lactoferrin?
There were several studies on COVID registered on clinicaltrials.gov, but I have only seen one of them completed, in Italy, as a preprint (not peer-reviewed). The study was a 10-day study in Italy where they used liposomal Lactoferrin with Zinc and Vitamin C. They noted some reductions in the symptoms and some of the symptoms reduced in just 48 hours. However, it’s important to note that it was not a large, rigorous, randomized controlled trial.
We’re often asked at Leapfrog if you can take Lactoferrin if you’re lactose intolerant, given that it’s extracted from cow’s milk. Any thoughts on this?
It’s understandable that some people might be concerned if they’re lactose intolerant. I’ve read in published literature that lactose intolerance can be prevalent in as much as 70% of people but I’ve also read that symptoms don’t necessarily manifest until 12 to 24 g of lactose is consumed, which is about 1-2 glasses of milk. Most of the studies used small doses (less than 1g) of Lactoferrin, which will obviously have much less than 12 g of lactose. Lactoferrin supplements would be expected to have extremely small levels of lactose.
Watch Stephanie Drax interview Dr Noelle Patno here.
Disclaimer: Dr Noelle Patno answers questions based on the research she has read as a scientist. She does not endorse any products from Leapfrog Remedies. Dr Noelle Patno does not provide medical advice. This content is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard or read from Dr Patno.