By Monica Mollica & Will Brink
As seen in The Life Extension Magazine May 2014 issue © 2014

Lactoferrin has been experiencing an increased interest by researchers and medical professionals, and rightly so: It’s shown an astounding array of potential benefits to human health and disease prevention. The wide range of potential health and disease fighting properties of lactoferrin are covered extensively in two prior articles “The Bioactive Peptide that Fights Disease” and a later update outlining recent research findings with additional research found . This article shows a recently discovered benefit of this unique peptide that were quite unexpected.

What Is Lactoferrin?

In a nut shell, Lactoferrin is a multi-functional peptide, derived from whey protein; in bovine milk it’s present at approximately 0.5-1.5% of total whey proteins 1, and 0.1 g/liter 2. In addition to its known anti-bacterial 3, anti-viral 4), immune strengthening 5, antioxidant 6, 7, anti-inflammatory 7 and cancer-preventive potential 8, recent studies have discovered novel targets of lactoferrin that can help with fat loss and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control, which are also essential components to weight loss and overall health.

Lactoferrin for fat loss

A role for lactoferrin in reducing adiposity was first discovered in fat cell culture studies. It was found that lactoferrin specifically inhibits fat accumulation in fat cells, as well as formation of new fat cells (a process called adipogenesis) 9, 10.

The potential anti-obesity effect of lactoferrin has been shown in obese mice, where a lactoferrin rich diet resulted in increased fat loss 11. Another study on mice found that a lactoferrin rich whey protein isolate prevents obesity by dose- dependently preventing fat gain and fatty liver formation during spontaneous feeding, and enhancing fat los during a calorie restricted diet 12.

Research is showing that lactoferrin might help with fat loss in humans as well. Higher blood levels of lactoferrin are associated with lower BMI (an obesity indicator), waist-to-hip ratio and fasting triglyceride and glucose concentrations 13, 14. A notable study supplemented healthy men and women, aged 22–60 years, with 300 mg lactoferrin (enteric coated) tablets per day for 8 weeks 15. Subjects were told to maintain their regular food habits. It was found that the lactoferrin supplement, compared to placebo, resulted in a 12.4% significant reduction in intra-abdominal (visceral) fat 15. The lacroferrin group also showed significant decreases in body weight (-3.3 lb), BMI (-0.6) and hip circumference (-1 inch), while the placebo group instead gained 0.45 lb body weight. In addition, there was a 1.7 inch reduction in waist circumference in the lacroferrin group. It was concluded that lacroferrin appears to be a promising supplement for counteracting intra-abdominal fat accumulation.

Lactoferrin for improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control
There are also indications for a role for lactoferrin in the regulation of glucose control. In humans, higher blood levels of lactoferrin are associated with lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin sensitivity 14, and supplementing mice on high-fat diet with a lactoferrin rich whey protein isolate was found to improve glucose tolerance compared to the same diet supplemented with casein 12.

Metabolic endotoxemia – another fat fighting target of lactoferrin
Another way lactoferrin can help in the fight against obesity and its associated metabolic and cardiovascular complications is by binding to and inactivating an endotoxin called lipopolysaccharide 16. The gut houses a vast microbial community of diverse bacterial species 17, 18. Lipopolysaccharide is continuously produced by Gram-negative Intestinal bacteria, and absorbed in small quantities into the blood stream 19, 20. Unhealthy food habits, like the typical Western diet high in fat and processed foods, and low in fiber), can increase production, absorption and blood levels of lipopolysaccharide, and cause a condition called “metabolic endotoxemia” 19-21.

Metabolic endotoxemia is a condition characterized by two- to threefold increases in blood lipopolysaccharide levels 19, 20, and there are indications that it might initiate insulin resistance and obesity 19, 22. In addition, it elicits a chronic low-grade pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative stress status that can damage organs in the body 23-25. Metabolic endotoxemia can thus represent a molecular link between obesity and its related diseases. This is supported by the recent finding that people with overweight, obesity, and metabolic syndrome (particularly, low HDL cholesterol levels) have higher lipopolysaccharide-binding protein levels 26. Lipopolysaccharide-binding protein might be a biomarker to indicate activation of the immune system in response to microbial compounds, particularly lipopolysaccharide 27-30. These findings are consistent with microbial exposure playing a role in these inflammatory, metabolic abnormalities 26.

Further evidence for the involvement metabolic endotoxemia in obesity development is the finding that it directly stimulates formation of new fat cells 31. Thus, lactoferrin might inhibit new fat cell formation via several different mechanisms 9, 10.


Lactoferrin continues to demonstrate a wide range of potential benefits to humans  and now appears to be an effective weight loss agent. The precise dose of lactoferrin that’s optimal for fat loss in humans has yet to be fully studied, but 300-1000mg+ is good target dose until further studies are carried out, and the only side effect is likely to be improved health…

NOTE: It should be noted also that lactoferrin can come in two forms; called apo-lactoferrin (apo-LF) and halo-lactoferrin (halo-LF). One role of lactoferrin is to sequester and bind iron until it’s needed by the immune system to fight pathogens. Apo- lactoferrin is iron depleted. Halo-lactoferrin contains iron. Although studied suggest both forms are beneficial, Apo-LF appears to be the more potent of the two as it relates to a number of benefits seen with lactoferrin. The vast majority of companies that sell lactoferrin sell the Halo (iron saturated) from. The company I’d recommend for  apo-LF form is the Life Extension Foundation but there may be others I’m not aware of.


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Will Brink is the owner of the Brinkzone Blog. Will has over 15 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.


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