Lactoferrin in Colostrum: All you need to Know

Various individuals drinking milk with focus on 'Lactoferrin in Colostrum'

Colostrum, the first milk produced by mammals after giving birth, is an invaluable substance supporting newborns’ health and development. It is rich in proteins, antibodies, growth factors, and other bioactive molecules essential for the infant’s growth and protection.

This blog will explore the remarkable relationship between lactoferrin and colostrum, their unique properties, and how they contribute to our health and well-being.

What is Lactoferrin in Colostrum?

At the heart of this nourishing nutrient, Colostrum, is lactoferrin, a multifunctional protein belonging to the transferrin family. This globular glycoprotein, with a molecular mass of approximately 80 kDa, is widely found in various secretory fluids, including milk, saliva, tears, and nasal secretions.

Lactoferrin is a remarkable multitasker, playing a pivotal role in our immune system. It possesses antimicrobial properties, effectively combating bacteria and fungi. It’s an essential component of the innate defense, primarily at mucosal surfaces, making it crucial for the health of human infants. [1]

Immune-boosting Power

When it comes to lactoferrin, colostrum is where the concentration is highest. Human colostrum, often referred to as “first milk,” boasts the most substantial amount of lactoferrin, followed by human milk and then cow’s milk (with about 150 mg/L). [2]

This abundance of lactoferrin in colostrum provides infants with a crucial line of defense against infections and illnesses, especially in their early, vulnerable stages of life. It’s an integral part of their immune system, helping them ward off harmful pathogens.

Antibacterial activity

There are many studies that show Lactoferrin’s role in the body extends beyond passive defense; it actively fights off bacteria and fungi. It interacts with various biological molecules, such as DNA, RNA, polysaccharides, and heparin. When complexed with these ligands, lactoferrin exhibits its antibacterial properties. [3]

Bovine Colostrum Lactoferrin is probably the most popular known supplement, Research [4] has shown that lactoferrin supplements can reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections.

However, it’s essential to exercise caution when considering supplements, as their quality can vary significantly due to less stringent regulatory processes compared to medicines.

Bone Activity

Some studies have suggested that lactoferrin has been shown to have positive effects on bone health by decreasing bone resorption and increasing bone formation. This suggests its potential for promoting healthy bones. [5]

Other benefits have shown that lactoferrin also has antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, catalytic, anti-cancer, and anti-allergic functions and properties. [6]

What is the Difference Between Lactoferrin and Colostrum?

It’s crucial to clarify the distinction between lactoferrin and colostrum. While lactoferrin is a specific protein, colostrum is a complex fluid produced by mammals during the initial stages of lactation. Colostrum contains a multitude of bioactive compounds, of which lactoferrin is just one. [7]

For those seeking the potential health benefits of lactoferrin, supplements derived from bovine colostrum are available. These supplements offer a concentrated source of lactoferrin, which may help bolster the immune system and support overall well-being.

Take Away

In the world of human and animal biology, lactoferrin in colostrum stands as a testament to nature’s precision and complexity. This multifunctional protein, abundant in the first milk produced by mammals, plays a pivotal role in our immune system, bone health, and more.

So, the next time you hear about colostrum and lactoferrin, remember the invaluable role they play in nurturing and safeguarding life from the very beginning.


  1. Kruzel ML, Zimecki M, Actor JK. Lactoferrin in a Context of Inflammation-Induced Pathology. Front Immunol. 2017 Nov 6;8:1438. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01438. 
  2. Kell DB, Heyden EL, Pretorius E. The Biology of Lactoferrin, an Iron-Binding Protein That Can Help Defend Against Viruses and Bacteria. Front Immunol. 2020 May 28;11:1221. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.01221.
  3. Lönnerdal B. Bioactive Proteins in Human Milk: Health, Nutrition, and Implications for Infant Formulas. J Pediatr. 2016 Jun;173 Suppl:S4-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.02.070.
  4. Jiang R, Lönnerdal B. Bovine lactoferrin and lactoferricin exert antitumor activities on human colorectal cancer cells (HT-29) by activating various signaling pathways. Biochem Cell Biol. 2017 Feb;95(1):99-109. doi: 10.1139/bcb-2016-0094. Epub 2016 Nov 30.
  5. Eid R, Arab NT, Greenwood MT. Iron mediated toxicity and programmed cell death: A review and a re-examination of existing paradigms. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res. 2017 Feb;1864(2):399-430. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2016.12.002. Epub 2016 Dec 6.
  6. Bharadwaj S, Naidu AG, Betageri GV, Prasadarao NV, Naidu AS (September 2009). “Milk ribonuclease-enriched lactoferrin induces positive effects on bone turnover markers in postmenopausal women”. Osteoporosis International. 20 (9): 1603–11. doi:10.1007/s00198-009-0839-8.
  7. Legrand D. Overview of Lactoferrin as a Natural Immune Modulator. J Pediatr. 2016 Jun;173 Suppl:S10-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.02.071.
  8. Gozzelino R, Arosio P. Iron Homeostasis in Health and Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Jan 20;17(1):130. doi: 10.3390/ijms17010130.

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