How Is Lactoferrin Made?
Where does the Lactoferrin in Leapfrog’s immune support supplement come from? How is it made, and how does it work to protect us against viruses and bacteria? Leapfrog founder Stephanie Drax spoke to Audrey Boulier, the Scientific and Innovation manager at Ingredia, the French dairy company that supplies our Lactoferrin, about why it’s such a “miracle molecule”.
Stephanie: Many customers ask why we chose your particular Lactoferrin company for Leapfrog, and I say it’s because of Ingredia’s ethics. I really like the way that you operate. Could you explain how you source your Lactoferrin, from cow’s milk? Are they happy cows?
Audrey: Ingredia is part of a dairy cooperative so we work closely with farmers. We follow the Charter of Good Breeding Practices which ensures the traceability of the animals, it protects the health of the herds, guarantees the animals are healthy and that they have a well-balanced diet. All of the practices address how to collect the milk, including the quality of the milk, the hygiene of the collection of the milk and we ensure the wellbeing of the cows and the safety of the farmer as well. There is also a great involvement around the environment with waste management, health and water quality. In 2021, Ingredia received the societal and environmental commitment award – it’s an acknowledgement for the company’s committed and innovative action in the services of sustainable diary production. We’re trying to improve every day.
The cows come from small farms of only 50 cows so there’s plenty of space between them. In the summer they graze on grass. Is that right?
Yes, we’re a small dairy cooperative so all the farms are located in Northern France and there are no more than 50-60 cows. The reason they’re all in Northern France is so that we can be close to the farms and there’s plenty of green space. We also ask the farmers to have a minimum of pasture and accessible grazing area.
I often get asked if the Lactoferrin comes from organic cows, but right now, it’s not possible to extract it from organic milk. Could you explain why this is?
Yes, that’s right. It takes time to have the commitment of every farmers and farms. For farms it takes a long time to switch to organic methods so this is why we cannot have only organic milk – we keep the organic milk for the UHT milk consumption. It’s currently too difficult to have organic Lactoferrin but hopefully in a few years when everyone makes organic milk it will be possible.
There’s also no waste. When we extract the Lactoferrin, we have milk without Lactoferrin and we use it to make proteins. There are two families of proteins inside milk: whey protein and micellar caseins. We extract both proteins and they will have a function for nutrition such as sport nutrition, clinical nutrition, and we work on high-quality proteins.
Micellar caseins are used in clinical nutrition. For example, people in hospital who cannot eat full meals will be given this. This is really important for fighting infections.
Let’s now talk about the process of extracting the Lactoferrin. How do you get it out, and why is it so expensive?
It’s a very complex process. The Lactoferrin needs to bind to a column when the milk goes through so that we can then extract it from the column. This is a very complex process and we chose a specific way to do this because Lactoferrin is a heat-sensitive protein. If you perform any treatment, you can denature the Lactoferrin and lose some biological action. This is why we extract the Lactoferrin at cold temperatures with chromatography process and filtration. At the end, we ensure we are gentle drying in order to retain the nativity of the proteins and to keep the bioactivity. As a result, we have a very pure Lactoferrin.
There are not many competitors on the market – there are around 12 Lactoferrin producers in the world. I think we are one of two producers (the other one is in New Zealand) to extract Lactoferrin from a non-heat milk process. Everyone has different processes to obtain Lactoferrin: the main difference concerns the raw material you use to produce the Lactoferrin from milk. You can use raw non-pasteurised milk, pasteurised milk, and whey proteins because this is where the Lactoferrin is in the major quantity. If you use pasteurised milk or whey proteins, you have a treatment history which means the Lactoferrin is not in its native form anymore. This is why we chose the non-pasteurised, raw milk in order to extract the Lactoferrin. Of course, we have a very specific process in order to have a very good microbiological specification.
That’s why it’s more expensive. Without treatment you perform micro-filtration in order to remove all the bacteria to have a safe product to consume and this step is very expensive. There’s also not much Lactoferrin on the market and there’s such a small quantity of Lactoferrin in milk – around 100mg per litre. Mother’s milk contains 2000mg per litre in comparison. Because of the small quantity in the milk, it’s difficult to have a huge volume in the market. The price has been rising in the past four years because of the interest in Lactoferrin for infant formula, particularly in China.
In the past two years there’s a global interest in immunity because of COVID-19. We know that Lactoferrin can boost the immune system and that’s why it’s such a premium market.
Is there a way of measuring the Lactoferrin we have in our bodies, such as in our eyes, mucus and saliva?
Yes, we can measure it in finished products and we can detect human Lactoferrin thanks to analytical tools. It will depend if we can collect Lactoferrin samples from the area in your body. We know there is some Lactoferrin in the brain, which would be very difficult to extract, but for tears, saliva, plasma and other types of secretion we can measure it. We know that analytical tools can have some specification in terms of precision, so we need to have a certain quantity of Lactoferrin in order to detect it. There are specific tools to detect it, and also which type of Lactoferrin it is.
I’m impressed with how much Lactoferrin is in our tears – 2mg per millilitre. Could you talk us through Lactoferrin’s action within the body naturally without us taking extra Lactoferrin through supplements?
Yes, Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein and it also works on viruses and bacteria. One of its functions is protection. It will prevent the viruses from attaching to healthy cells. Lactoferrin is able to bind the virus so the virus cannot recognise any receptor and cannot bind to another cell. For bacteria, it’s similar – Lactoferrin will bind to the bacteria but it can also be used as a signal to the immune system to kill the bacteria. It also keeps the iron which is necessary for cells to grow and develop themselves.
What fascinates me is that bacteria need iron in order to survive. Lactoferrin binds iron to itself and is essentially starving the bacteria of what it needs which gives the body a chance to react. We call the Lactoferrin the swiss army knife of the human defence system. What happens when you put extra Lactoferrin into your body?
Lactoferrin fights bacteria and viruses in a direct way, but Lactoferrin is also beneficial to the immune system. Lactoferrin has a positive action and will boost your immune system. It will act on the different immune systems we have. We have the innate immune system which is the first line of defence in our body. When you have extra Lactoferrin by supplementation, it will act in a way of prevention because you will have more immune cells to react if a virus, bacteria or infection enters your body.
The second action is on the adaptative immune system which is the second shield of our immunity. This one is very specific. It will recognise the type of viruses. There’s a type of cell called lymphocytes which will recognise the viruses and help the immune system work faster so they can produce more cells to fight the virus or bacteria. In terms of prevention, it will get your body ready to react and in terms of infection, it will allow your body to react faster. We call it immunomodulatory properties because it involves pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory activity.
When you have a fever for example, it means that your body is reacting to the infection so your body is working (the pro-inflammatory phase) – this phase will be faster with the Lactoferrin because it will help the body to bond all the immune cells to work together.
The anti-inflammatory property is the phase when your body needs to recover. Lactoferrin will ensure a faster recovery because of its anti-inflammatory properties. That’s why Lactoferrin is interesting – it’s modulating. It will choose how to improve your immune system, whether that may be prevention, infection, or recovery.
Here we have something that is entirely natural and works with our body and that’s why I believe it’s so effective. It can have a nuanced approach because your body recognises it in a way that it might not with a plant-based remedy, for example. How much should we take to supplement with?
In terms of dosage, it depends what you want to do. If its prevention, clinical studies show improvement from 100mg of Lactoferrin. So, you can start from 100-250mg for prevention.
At Leapfrog we think 250mg works well for the pulse-method – one month on and one month off to give your body a chance to make its own Lactoferrin. I think cycling is a good method to do. When you start to feel the first symptoms of a cough or a cold, we go to two tablets which is 500mg.
Yes, it’s what we also advise with our consultant doctor. For COVID, we recommend 4 tablets (1 gram). It’s a very save product, there are no side-effects or toxic effects. If you want to take more, you can!
There are clinical trials happening all the time, and the dosage can be 500-600mg and even more. It will be interesting to see what is the ideal amount to take.
What is difficult is that it’s more cohorts and not specific clinical trials, because there are other variables involved. A trial in Italy showed that there were more negative COVID-19 results from people who took Lactoferrin compared to those in the non-Lactoferrin group. However, it’s difficult to say that it is only because of the Lactoferrin supplementation. Because of the mechanisms of action on the viruses they actually show it in-vitro conditions (where you have it in an external way to see how it will react on the cells), they show that Lactoferrin has the same mechanisms of action on COVID-19 than on other coronaviruses.
Regarding the age range, Leapfrog is for 4 year olds and above. The reason we say 4+ is because of the zinc. One tablet of Leapfrog has the recommended daily intake for a 4 year old and above. For three year olds, I would recommend splitting a tablet in half.
There’s a team in America working on infants with chest infections. They’ve shown that with the supplementation of Lactoferrin there is a decreased risk of respiratory infection disease. You can also discuss this with your GP.
On that point – Hamid Merchant, our pharmaceutical scientist, did a meta-analysis of 6 clinical trial of Lactoferrin’s effects on respiratory tract infections and the results were fantastic.
Yes, and the Vitamin C is a great combination with Lactoferrin. The Vitamin C has great immune properties which was highlighted by the COVID situation. There’s a great synergy of the three ingredients of Leapfrog.
Q&A FROM VIEWERS
Can you take Lactoferrin when you’re pregnant?
Yes, you can. There are lots of clinical trials on pregnant women with Lactoferrin for the risk of anaemia. Lactoferrin also helps with the iron metabolism.
What about breastfeeding?
Yes, there’s also Lactoferrin inside mother’s milk. The quantity of Lactoferrin inside mother’s milk can change according to whether you have twins. Lactoferrin has very important proteins in terms of nutrition for babies and also breastfeeding women.
If you have hemochromatosis (overload of iron), is it still ok to take it?
There’s no issue with taking Lactoferrin when you have high iron content. When we look at the scientific literature, there’s not a lot on it, but there are a few quotes from scientists. It might be able to help because Lactoferrin can regulate the iron in the blood.
Is there any connection with Lactoferrin and allergies?
If you have a milk allergy, you should not take Lactoferrin. It depends if it acts on the symptoms linked to allergies – so for asthma and respiratory infections, Lactoferrin should be beneficial. The Lactoferrin is relevant in terms of its anti-inflammatory properties.
What about if you have an auto-immune condition?
Most of the time, the mechanisms of auto-immune diseases are difficult to know. So, it’s best to consult your general practitioner.
How does it help with menopause?
When you have menopause you have a risk of osteoporosis and there’s scientific effects that show that Lactoferrin can affect the bone formation and will inhibit the catabolism of the bones so you’ll have less loss of the bone. Also it may reduce fractures if you fall when you’re in the post-menopausal condition. I think you still need to consume calcium and Vitamin D in order to prevent it as well. It’s also great for the skin.
How does it help with cold sores and herpes virus?
It can help to reduce the number of times you have the herpes virus.