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Lactoferrin: A Functional Ingredient for Health and Wellness Products

Lactoferrin is a naturally occurring component in bovine milk that is scientifically shown to provide a wide range of health benefits. While present only in very small amounts in milk, thanks to modern technology, lactoferrin can be concentrated up to 95 percent purity, meaning its wide ranging health benefits can be applied to many more products. Some of the unique properties of lactoferrin include: 

Immune Support and Anti-Microbial Properties:

Probably lactoferrin’s best known benefits are its immune boosting properties and ability to support the body in fighting off viruses, bacteria and fungi.  


A 2021 study found a reduction of summer cold incidence in women who supplemented with 600mg lactoferrin for three months vs placebo, with a lower incidence of total infectious disease in both 200mg or 600mg supplemented groups. This study echoed findings from previous work conducted by the University of Queensland, where daily supplementation of 400mg lactoferrin and 200mg IgF over three months was found to significantly reduce the number of colds by more than half compared to placebo. 


Lactoferrin’s anti-viral capabilities were also tested against SARS-CoV-2, both in vitro and in vivo. A 2020 in vivo research study compared treating COVID-19 patients with lactoferrin, standard pharmaceutical treatment, or nothing. These results showed a significantly faster time to a negative PCR test with lactoferrin vs. the other two groups, suggesting a reduction in the infectious period. They also found significantly faster recovery from symptoms associated with COVID-19 with lactoferrin vs the other groups. Meanwhile, a 2021 in vitro study demonstrated that treating the cells with lactoferrin enhanced their anti-viral response and partially inhibited the ability of the virus to infect the cells. 


Iron Status Improvements 

Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein and has been shown to improve iron status in adults. A 2008 study by researchers at Juntendo University in Japan demonstrated iron status improvement in a group of female long-distance runners, who are frequently at risk of iron-deficiency anemia. 

Iron supplementation often comes with gastrointestinal side effects. Lactoferrin can help avoid this while still improving iron status, either alone as a supplement or in combination with iron. This was found in a supplementation study of pregnant women, where no side effects were reported in those supplemented with lactoferrin alone, compared to 95% reporting side effects with ferrous sulfate. 

How can lactoferrin be incorporated into functional food and beverage products?

Lactoferrin provides many benefits to consumers, but it also offers a lot of flexibility to food formulators. High-purity lactoferrin is small but mighty, meaning it only requires a small amount in products to be impactful. 

As a result, lactoferrin can be easily incorporated into a wide range of products. It can provide functional benefits in capsule or tablet applications for one-a-day supplements. It can be incorporated into confectionary products such as lollipops and gummies for kid-friendly supplements. It can also be incorporated into more traditional food and beverage products, such as ready-to-mix protein drinks. 

In what ways does lactoferrin enhance sports nutrition supplements?

Lactoferrin is one of several products that may help define the future of the sports nutrition category. In addition to providing lean protein after a stringent workout, lactoferrin can also add other functional benefits that will aid in recovery or help get someone back into the gym more quickly following a common cold. 

What support and resources does Milk Specialties Global offer to nutrition companies interested in lactoferrin?

Milk Specialties has a team of food formulators with extensive backgrounds in formulating lactoferrin and other dairy proteins. You may contact us by completing this form.