Can lactoferrin help with iron deficiency?
I have found that iron supplementation can be tricky. Ferrous iron is a powerful prooxidant, and it is known that free iron can lead to Fenton reactions and cause oxidative damage (Lonnerdal & Bryant, 2006). What are your thoughts on lactoferrin as a source of iron for those who are anemic or sub clinically anemic? Lactoferrin appears to have various biological roles in the human body, and one of them is the ability for it to enhance iron absorption (Lonnerdal & Bryant, 2006). Studies comparing iron absorption from lactoferrin vs. ferrous sulfate indicate that the mean value for iron absorption from lactoferrin did not differ significantly from that for ferrous sulfate. This showed that lactoferrin-bound iron is well utilized (Lonnerdal & Bryant, 2006). In adults, the low pH after meal and secretion of pancreatic enzymes is able to release the iron from the lactoferrin from the stomach, partially digested by pepsin, and then the iron can become associated with the various dietary components known to affect iron absorption. Iron bound to lactoferrin is in ferric form and thus is not prone to cause oxidative damage.
Lactoferrin has other potential biological roles (besides providing iron) and is likely to have bactericidal or bacteriostatic activity. Recent evidence suggests that lactoferrin may be an early modulator of antigenic response by T cells, perhaps by directly influencing innate regulatory function (Kruzel, Actor, Boldogh, & Zimecki, 2007). Lactoferrin is synthesized by epithelial cells and granulocytes and is considered a first-line defense protein involved in protection against a multitude of microbial infections, and prevention of systemic inflammation (Kruzel et al., 2007). Lactoferrin is also well documented as having direct antimicrobial activity, including an iron-dependent bacteriostatic property and non-iron-dependent bacteriocidal action on LPS-bearing Gram-negative bacteria. Seems like it may be a good alternative option for iron supplementation without negative side effects.
Kruzel, M. L., Actor, J. K., Boldogh, I., & Zimecki, M. (2007). Lactoferrin in health and disease. Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online), 61, 261-267.
Lonnerdal, B., & Bryant, A. (2006). Absorption of iron from recombinant human lactoferrin in young US women. Am J Clin Nutr, 83(2), 305-309. doi:10.1093/ajcn/83.2.305