Purpose of review
Until relatively recently, the only significant source of lactoferrin
in the diet was human lactoferrin
, provided in breast milk. Today, however, bovine lactoferrin
, isolated by dairy technology, as well as recombinant human lactoferrin
are commercially available and can be added to foods and clinical products with perceived benefits to the consumer. In this review, the potential biological functions of dietary lactoferrin
are described and critically examined.
has been suggested to exert antibacterial and antiviral activities in the intestine, in part through a direct effect on pathogens, but possibly also affecting mucosal immune function
. The latter function is most likely mediated by lactoferrin
being taken up by cells via a unique receptor-mediated pathway and affecting gene transcription. Lactoferrin
has also been shown to enhance iron status of infants and pregnant women, possibly also via the receptor-mediated pathway. In addition, lactoferrin
can stimulate intestinal cell proliferation and differentiation, causing expansion of tissue mass and absorptive capacity. On the contrary, lactoferrin
has been shown to inhibit carcinogenesis. Recent findings also suggest that oral lactoferrin
treatment may have an anti-inflammatory effect on pregnant women, reducing pregnancy complications.
treatment may have beneficial preventive and therapeutic effects on infection
, inflammation, and cancer as well as enhancing iron status and growth in vulnerable groups.