Lactoferrin and Anemia

August 4, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Some vitamin and mineral deficiencies are more obvious than others. This is both a blessing and a curse. Nobody looks forward to feeling or seeing the effects of poor nutrition. On the other hand, if obvious signs of nutrient deficiencies or malabsorption can be identified, proactive steps can be taken to address the problem. Anemia is a rather common nutritionally influenced condition. It is often caused by an iron deficiency which plays an essential role in transporting oxygen throughout the body. If there isn’t enough iron and hemoglobin (an oxygen carrying protein) present, symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, irritability, muscle weakness and spasms, poor cognitive and immune function, and skin problems often manifest. The obvious solution for many people is to simply supplement with therapeutic levels of iron. But on occasion, iron absorption is compromised and/or gastrointestinal side effects prevent good adherence to this vital therapy.

Iron is naturally present in many animal and plant based foods. Beef, chicken and seafood contain a well absorbed form known as “heme iron”. Grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables possess a different variety of iron that is referred to as “nonheme iron”. Chicken livers, oysters, steak and dark meat turkey are among the top heme iron sources. Kidney beans, lentils, molasses and spinach provide considerable levels of nonheme iron. Research indicates that the heme (animal based) iron is better absorbed in general, but combining both forms, preferably with some added vitamin C, may be the ideal dietary means of promoting healthy iron absorption. (1)

Diet alone is rarely enough to reestablish adequate iron stores in someone with clinical anemia. That’s why doctors often recommend high-dose supplementation that far exceeds the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 18 mg. Dosages ranging from 60 mg – 200 mg of elemental iron are often prescribed for those with an iron deficiency. This is both necessary and frequently problematic because it can cause certain digestive side effects, such as constipation and nausea. Taking iron supplements with food and slowly building up to the recommended dosage helps some anemic patients better tolerate this therapy. Constipation can also be dealt with by conventional (stool softeners) or holistic means (added fiber, healthy fats, magnesium, vitamin C, increased fluids and supplemental probiotics). Still, there are certain sensitive individuals who will persist in having difficulty with this treatment routine. (2,3)

Fortunately, there is a scientifically validated alternative for those who cannot manage traditional iron replacement – a little known supplement called lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein (a molecule that contains a carbohydrate and a protein) that is normally found in breast milk. Any baby who has been breast fed has already “supplemented” with and benefited from lactoferrin. It is relevant in the battle against anemia because it appears to improve iron absorption from food and helps transport this essential mineral to wherever it’s needed.

A study published in July 2009 examined the effects of lactoferrin versus an iron supplement (ferrous sulfate) in a group of pregnant women with anemia. This is an especially sensitive population. The risk of digestive complications and the added importance of adherence to treatment is particularly important during this time. 100 expectant mothers participated in the study. Half received 100 mg of lactoferrin twice daily, while the remainder were given 520 mg of ferrous sulfate once a day (providing about 100 mg of actual iron). (4)

  • After 30 days of treatment, both groups demonstrated similar increases in serum ferritin, hemoglobin and iron.
  • However, the group receiving the ferrous sulfate reported significantly greater rates of abdominal pain and constipation.

An Italian experiment from 2006 supports these current findings. That study followed 300 women and employed the same dosage of both iron and lactoferrin (520 mg daily vs. 100 mg twice daily). This 30 day trial actually found that lactoferrin outperformed ferrous sulfate by increasing values of hemoglobin and “total serum iron” to a greater extent. Once again, lactoferrin was superior in that it didn’t provoke adverse reactions. Based on the currently available evidence, a recent scientific review suggests that lactoferrin can be considered in certain cases of pregnancy related iron deficiency. (5,6)

Another important application for lactoferrin may be in managing iron levels in those who engage in high intensity exercise. In 2007, an 8 week experiment on 16 female long distance runners tested the effects of lactoferrin plus iron vs. iron alone. The form of iron used in this experiment is known as ferric pyrophosphate. The researchers determined that the addition of lactoferrin resulted in higher red blood cell counts. They concluded that, “these observations suggest the possibility that intake of LF (lactoferrin) increases absorption and utilization of iron and would be useful in the prevention of iron deficiency anemia.” (7)

The results in the 2007 study may extend to populations beyond those with clinical anemia. A new trial presented in the July edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 8 weeks worth of lower dosage iron supplementation (20 mg) helped a group of female soldiers maintain optimal iron status. In addition, they exhibited better mood scores, improved cognitive and physical function (running time) during a physically intense training period (“basic combat training”). This points to the possible application of iron and lactoferrin use for female athletes and those who exercise regularly and demonstrate iron deficiency symptoms – even without an actual diagnosis of anemia. (8)

There are other segments of the general population that need to be aware of the potential of iron deficiency. Those who are on strict diets or who have opted for gastric bypass or lap-band weight loss surgeries need to aware of their iron levels. Here, the issue is not only the amount of iron consumed, but rather the percentage of absorption. This leads us to some guidance that the late, great women’s health expert, Dr. John Lee, used to espouse. He suggested that the addition of lower dosages of lactoferrin might be “just the ticket” for people who have a hard time absorbing standard iron capsules and tablets. (9,10)

I want to emphasize that proper blood tests and physician supervised exams are extremely important in verifying improvements in anemia. Of course, changes in symptoms can indicate treatment success as well, but there’s simply no sense in leaving such an important and easily tested question up to subjective measures. Also, please note that not all iron supplements perform as expected in every individual. In my own experience, I found that my wife was better able to absorb and tolerate a cheaper form of iron (ferrous fumarate) than a “gentler” and, supposedly, more bioavailable variety known as “iron bisglycinate”. (11,12)

Lactoferrin is an example of a well tolerated, alternative approach for those with iron deficient anemia. The upside of this dairy derived supplement is that it may provide additional benefits as well. Recent studies indicate that lactoferrin can help the body combat bacterial and viral infections, decrease inflammation and protect against certain cancers, It may even support antioxidant status, bone health and immune function. These are all valid reasons to consider whether this natural remedy may have a role to play in your wellness program. (13,14,15,16,17)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutritional Supplements, Women's Health

51 Comments & Updates to “Lactoferrin and Anemia”

  1. Oct Says:

    Very good article. My mom was anemic when she was pregnant with me. I’ve often wondered if that effected my own iron levels. Probably at first I would guess. I’m also mildly lactose intolerant. I had to be fed goat’s milk as an infant because I couldn’t tolerate regular milk or formula (thought associations that probably are completely unrelated, lol).

    Hope you are back to blogging soon. I miss you!

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks, Oct!

    Don’t worry about missing out on lactoferrin because you can’t drink milk. The most substantial source of dietary lactoferrin is whey protein – which is often lactose free as a bonus. 🙂

    I hope to be back to my menu blogging soon!

    Be well!


  3. Sai Says:


    My wife is iron deficient and she accidentally started on Jay Robb whey protein for the last month or so, now may be her hemoglobin might have improved, good to know that. Great Post as always.



  4. JP Says:


    I certainly hope the whey protein helps your wife. Please keep in mind that different whey protein extracts contain varying amounts of lactoferrin (Lf).

    I like the Jay Robb products but I’m not certain how much Lf they contain.

    Be well!


  5. Anonymous Says:

    lactoferrin Iron‐protein complex in human milk (only a trace in cow’s milk), only partly saturated with iron; has a role inhibiting the growth of E. It is very informative and hence people who will come across this site will gain lot of information about it.

  6. JP Says:

    Thank you!

    I certainly hope they will!

    Be well!


  7. Andrea Says:

    How interesting that lactoferrin can help with anemia! I recently learned about lactoferrin because it is in my son’s Shaklee multivitamin and I know that it helps with immune support. It is the only children’s multi on the market in the U.S that contains lactoferrin.

  8. JP Says:

    Thanks, Andrea. 🙂

    Lactoferrin is a pretty versatile nutraceutical. Immune support is definitely one of it’s chief attributes.

    I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the years to come.

    Be well!


  9. Anonymous Says:

    This supplement interest me and I will be looking into it further to help with my many symptoms. I have RA, Graves’ Disease, as well as Candidiasis, Adrenal Fatigue, etc.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Very good article. My mom was anemic when she was pregnant with me. I’ve often wondered if that effected my own iron levels. .I had to be fed goat’s milk as an infant because I couldn’t tolerate regular milk or formula (thought associations that probably are completely unrelated, lol.

  11. JP Says:


    It’s worth having your iron levels tested if you have any cause for concern. Too little and too much iron can be problematic.

    Be well!


  12. Anonymous Says:

    How long it can take to treat anemia?? I’m also writing article about it but can’t find this info…

  13. JP Says:

    According to the studies I’ve cited, 30 days to 8 weeks is a good starting point.

    Be well!


  14. Rick Says:

    Thanks for the informative article.

    I am 57M with mild iron deficiency (specifically, ferritin — iron stores — of 19 ng/dl), and will be taking some tests in a few months to try to pinpoint the cause (starting with a colonoscopy and upper GI endoscopy for possible blood loss — tests I am overdue for anyway). Meanwhile my doctor is having me supplement ferrous sulfate, which I seem to be able to tolerate fine. (I am also wondering if the large amount polyphenol antioxidant supplements I had been taking — especially curcumin and quercetin — contributed to the deficiency, as polyphenols are well-known to interfere with iron absorption or lower iron in other ways. In fact, one way they exert their benefits is by inhibiting iron oxidation.)

    I’m intrigued by Lactoferrin, but I’m confused that the (relatively few) makers of it position it partially as an “iron binder.” This makes it sound like something you would take for the opposite problem — i.e., to help remove excess iron, which of course is an undesirable to have. In fact, some reviewers on the supplement sales sites say things like, “this is making my ferritin go UP instead of down!!” (which of course I take as a positive in my situation). I don’t see evidence that consumers are trying it to help *increase* iron stores, and the manufacturers certainly do not specifically state this benefit.

    The other confounding issue: I’ve seen the study you cite of pregnant women gived Lactoferrin for IDA, and it specifically states that they supplemented with “30% iron saturated bovine lactoferrin.” Are the readily-available Lactoferrin supplements (e.g., by Jarrow or Swanson) iron-staurated to a similar degree? Are they necessarily iron-saturated at all? The supplement-makers don’t give this information, and mightn’t it be key factor in assessing any potential benefit of Lactoferrin in iron deficiency?

  15. Rick Says:

    Immediate followup:

    1. I do see that Symbiotics Lactoferrin states that it “helps enhance iron transport and absorption.”

    2. On the other end of the spectrum, Life Extension, in touting their Lactoferrin, states:

    “Though a handful of companies are able to produce lactoferrin at this time, there is only one company producing the apolactoferrin (iron-depleted) form in large quantity. Studies suggest that the superior form to supplement with is apolactoferrin.”

    IOW, they seem to be saying that iron-DEPLETED lactoferrin is best. That certainly doesn’t sound like it would do a thing for iron deficiency.

    So as appealing as lactoferrin sounds as an alternative for raising iron stores, right now it sounds like a shot in the dark — which you don’t want to fool around with if the issue is the body’s level of iron stores.

  16. JP Says:


    According to the respected, integrative physician Leo Galland, “The dietary supplement lactoferrin, a protein derived from milk, binds to iron and increases its absorption”.

    The Life Extension Foundation offers some fine information. But they’re also very aggressive in the promotion of their products. Most of the research I’ve seen hasn’t used the apolactoferrin form of this supplement.

    The late Dr. John Lee offers another possibility: using lactoferrin as an adjunct to conventional iron supplementation:

    “Lactoferrin enhances iron absorption, and at the same time protects the body from the negative, oxidative effects of excess iron. It can decrease or eliminate the side effects of nausea and constipation caused by iron supplementation. Recent research suggests that lactoferrin may also have beneficial effects in regulating the immune system, as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and viral, and antioxidant effects.

    Lactoferrin is listed as an ingredient in some colostrum products, which you can find at your local health food store. It only takes about 20 mg of lactoferrin, taken with the iron, to reduce or eliminate the side effects.”

    I don’t offer this information in order to change your mind about using lactoferrin. I only wish to provide some additional information that may be of value.

    Be well!


  17. Rick Says:

    JP – Thanks for that quick and very informative response! Really glad I happened to run across your site – Rick

  18. Rick Says:

    Back again… Was searching online stores and was surprised that what appears to be an older (green bottle) version of Jarrow’s Lactoferrin product had the words “Low Iron.” I called to see if they had changed the formula, and was told that their product is actually apolactoferrin (i.e., like Life Extension’s).

    The supplement makers need to do a better job of communicating the properties of their Lactoferrin products, and prospective buyers need to check — especially if trying it out as an aid to iron deficiency, as in the study you reviewed.

    That said, don’t you think it’s safe to say that apolactoferrin might still increase iron absorption from food — or at least not diminish it — and/or still counteract iron supplement side effects?

  19. JP Says:


    I agree that they ought to disclose that information. No question about it.

    I’ve probably encountered many of the same warnings that you’ve seen re: using apolactoferrin in instances of anemia. Having said that, the only study I was able to find seems to indicate no ill effect (in mice).

    Please understand that I only performed a quick search on the topic. It’s possible that I missed something else that’s out there.

    You might want to contact the primary US manufacturer of apolactoferrin and inquire about whether it’s appropriate in cases of iron inadequacy. If they don’t give you a straight answer, let me know and I’ll try to tap some of my sources.

    Be well!


  20. Rick Says:

    JP –

    I wrote Glanbia and they responded quickly.

    Interestingly, their apo-lactoferrin does have 12% iron, while the “regular” is higher (<20%). While they could not provide specific brand information, I am getting the impression that most lactoferrin sold as supplements is actually apo-lactoferrin (despite the fact that perhaps only Life Extension specifically states this, and attempts to position themselves as unique in this regard).

    Glanbia also tells me they are not aware of any research that would show apo-lactoferrin worsening iron deficiency (which is the same conclusion I was starting to come to). However, I also wrote Life Extension, and one of their advisors responded rather differently:

    "If someone has low iron levels we do not suggest using lactoferrin, regardless of the type of iron supplementation a person is taking. Lactoferrin has an extremely high affinity to bind to iron. On the contrary, if someone has elevated iron levels, lactoferrin may help to promote healthy iron levels."

    Not sure why an "affinity to bind to iron" would be detrimental in and of itself. To me it would all seem to depend on what the protein does with that iron. After all, the body's primary iron transporter, transferrin, obviously "binds to iron" as well.

    Food for thought.


  21. Rick Says:

    Come to think of it, even 12% is a pretty significant amount of iron, IF you can simply take 12% of 300mg (the size of a typical Lactoferrin gelcap). That would be 36mg, which is more than half as much *elemental* iron as you get in a typical ferrous sulfate pill. And that’s discounting other properties of lactoferrin which could theoretically be even more important in any anti-iron-deficiency benefit. OTOH, really I don’t know if this is a fair, apples-to-apples way to compare.

  22. JP Says:


    Interesting findings. This link may be of interest – for the sake of comparison.

    LEF uses Glanbia’s apolactoferrin (Bioferrin). I have to assume that the manufacturer (Glanbia) would be more familiar with its effects.

    While poking around about this topic, I stumbled upon a customer testimonial on Jarrow Formula’s (Apo)Lactoferrin. The customer in question was upset because they expected the product to lower their iron stores and it actually increased them. This is purely anecdotal of course.

    Be well!


  23. Rick Says:

    Some followup: After a trial of Lactoferrin, it appears that Life Extension’s advice not to use it in iron deficiency may have been on the mark, at least for me.

    Timeline: After three weeks of Ferrous Sulfate (2 per day), my ferritin had risen from 18 to 30. After this I stopped the Ferrous Sulfate and took Lactoferrin for four weeks (Swanson 100mg, 3 per day with meals — presumably low-iron/apolactoferrin since that seems to be what is generally sold as supplements in the US). Result: My ferritin dropped from 30 to 14. After three more weeks taking neither, I am now back up a little, at 18.

    So my experience, while brief and anecdotal, suggests that Lactoferrin supplements — at least the iron-depleted kind apparently sold in the US — might indeed worsen iron deficiency as Life Extension suggested. I should caveat all this by pointing out that it’s possible there were other things going on at the same time that had an impact, and that this is just one brief anecdotal experience.

    I’m now starting Ferrous Sulfate again and it’s tempting to take a smaller amount of Lactoferrin to counteract any oxidation. This is especially true given that I managed to avoid contracting a very bad cold that was all around me while I was taking the Lactoferrin. And a cold sore that I started getting uncharacteristically suddenly “fizzled” instead of growing as it normally would. But since stopping it, I had another cold sore start whihc followed the usual course (though So the immune-boosting and anti-herpes properties may be for real. But as I’m sure you can understand, I think it’s probably best for me to steer clear of Lactoferrin for now.

  24. Rick Says:

    P.S. Also want to mention that I was taking a good deal of Olive Leaf extract concurrent with the Lactoferrin. That may also helped (or even been the primary driver) of any possible immune reinformcent. I suppose it’s also possible it was binding (preventing absorption of) some iron, especially since the doses were high, but I’d wager it’s more likely the Lactoferrin. Was involved. I stopped the Olive Leaf at the same time as the Lactoferrin. (I did take just one capsule of Olive Leaf a couple of days before that last ferritin test.)

  25. Rick Says:

    Sorry for all the typos in post 24 (and the last part of 23), but I think the intended meaning should be clear.

  26. JP Says:

    Thanks a lot for reporting back, Rick. I’m really sorry it didn’t work out well for you re: your ferritin level. Your other observations were also interesting and will almost certainly be helpful for others that read this thread. Much appreciated!

    BTW, I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this but my wife has found good success supplementing with ferrous fumarate. I make sure to add some Vitamin C (in the ascorbic acid form) at the same meal to promote greater absorption. This combination has worked out better than any other strategy or supplement that she’s tried. As an upshot, the ferrous fumarate pills are tiny. This helps make them more manageable for anyone with swallowing issues.

    Be well!


  27. Rick Says:

    Thanks, JP. How much vitamin C does/did she take with each dose of ferrous fumarate? Also, when you say “worked out better” are you referring to results, lack of side effects, or both? And what are some of the other strategies she tried? Thanks again.

  28. JP Says:


    My wife takes 1,000 mg of ascorbic acid along with her iron supplements – once daily. By “working out better”, I meant her lab results and, of lesser importance, the size of the pills. We first tried addressing the issue via a high-potency women’s multi and diet alone. Then we did a trial using a so-called “gentle” iron supplement (iron bisglycinate). Of the three approaches, the ferrous fumarate + Vitamin C proved most effective.

    Be well!


  29. David Says:

    Go back to this study:

    “For this purpose, lactoferrin (Lf), a cationic iron-binding glycoprotein, able to chelate at high affinity (KD w10/20 M) two ferric ions per molecule (30), is emerging as an important regulator of systemic iron homeostasis, able to cure ID and IDA. Lf is synthesized by exocrine glands and neutrophils in infection and inflammation sites. In humans, free iron does not exceed 10-18 M to avoid precipitation, microbial growth and formation of reactive oxygen species. Lf in tissues and secretions and transferrin in blood assure that iron was bound and scarcely available as free-ion.”

    What was the type of measurement that Rick had? Did it measure something that was “free”? Perhaps the lactoferrin did not remove the iron from his body, but just stored it properly?


  30. Rick Says:

    David –

    Interesting info. The primary measure I look at is serum ferritin, which is a measure of the body’s iron stores. Actual serum iron can vary highly throughout the course of a single day, and so is a far less accurate measure (although I have always had it tested at the same time as the ferritin, along with transferrin).

    Feritin is an acute phase reactant, meaning that body insults including infections can cause it to *rise* temporarily, but not to fall.

    Maybe JP has further thoughts, but remember that supplemental Lactoferrin sold in the US appears to have been modified via removal of most of its iron content. That said, I still didn’t expect it to cause a *decrease* in my ferritin (iron stores), either. It’s always possible something else was going on to during the month I took Lactoferrin, but after I stopped it my ferritin remained level — though still too low. I’m now supplementing with ferrous sulfate, a common iron supplement, and my ferritin levels seem to be going up nicely.

  31. David Says:

    FYI, I just found a brand of lactoferrin that is 80% apolactoferrin and 20% holo (iron-saturated) lactoferrin. I also posted an article on lactoferrin on my site. I will be updating it with this product I am mentioning, once I **Correctly** =) calculate how much iron is bound in that 20% holo lactoferrin. It is expensive though. 60mg capsules, and 30 capsules a box for like $60! It is called Lactoferrin Gold 1.8


  32. Tom Says:

    I am a biochemist and was trying to figure out the amount of iron in lactoferrin supplements. it is minimal. Lactoferrin is very latge molecule that only binds two iron atoms. That is, even in fully saturated lactoferrin, the percentage of iron relative to the whole molecule is minimal. I calculated that you would need to consume about 800 mg in order to get ONE mg of iron. This is not a good iron source, and my guess is that the low iron version will bind to iron if taken with a meal and may lower iron absorption.

  33. JP Says:

    Hi, Tom.

    I understand the points you’re making. However, it’s interesting to note that lactoferrin continues to perform well in studies evaluating anemic patients.

    Be well!


  34. CC Says:

    I came across this discussion while researching lactoferrin. Seems that most clinical studies use iron-saturated lactoferrin. Nevertheless, this goes contrary to the reviews posted for Jarrow’s (apo) Lactoferrin on iHerb customers saying that it has helped with their anemia.
    I just received Jarrow Lactoferrin, but after reading this intelligent & informative discussion, I’m hesitant to begin using it for borderline anemia.
    I’m assuming that Life Extension’s and Jarrow’s Lactoferrin are basically the same.

    It’s discouraging that results vary so much.
    I hope this discussion continues.

  35. Beverley Says:

    I am researching lactoferrin as I have recently had blood work which indicates my ferritin levels are high (319ug/L where the normal range for women is 13 – 150ug/L)
    I have just come through menopause so maybe the range will be slightly higher for me but I am still concerned.
    My other iron levels where within normal range iron 20.7 (6.6 – 26.0) TIBC 51 (41 – 77)
    transferrin saturation 41 (20 – 55)
    Do high ferritin levels pose a risk to my health?
    The link to lactoferrin is that I have been taking Solgar Whey protein which contains lactoferrin for about a year and wonder whether the whey is causing my high ferritin levels?

  36. JP Says:

    Hi Beverley,

    Please take at look at the following information:

    Elevated ferritin can be an indication of various conditions – some serious, others easily manageable and transient. Determining what’s causing your higher-than-normal reading is essential. Also, please be aware that labs use different ranges. For instance, your reading is just slightly out of the normal range listed in the Mayo Clinic piece. Another thing to evaluate is your previous test results. If you’ve always been on the high-end of “normal” re: ferritin, this current result may be less significant.

    I think it’s unlikely that the whey protein is causing this test result. But, if there’s any question in your mind, perhaps you can temporarily stop using the whey and retest after about a month or so. You can always use a non-dairy based protein powder during the trial period.

    I hope this helps.

    Be well!


  37. Erin Says:

    I came to this discussion after a search for lactoferrin that is from grass-fed, non-hormone & antibiotic-treated cows. My interest in lactoferrin is in its purported beneficial effects on osteoporosis rather than treating anemia.
    What I have read here has been informative. I would like to try lf, but not if using it produces the “negative, oxidative effects of excess iron”.
    Back to the “purity” of the lactoferrin source. The lactoferrin made by Jarrow is from regular dairy-farm cows. There is a source called Radiance, out of New Zealand, that is all about the grass-fed purity of their product, but it is fairly expensive, which is what led me to search for a good U.S. source.
    Here is the forum from National Osteoporosis Foundation that initiated this.

    Any suggestions about a safe, reliable source of lactoferrin would be greatly appreciated.

  38. JP Says:

    Hi Erin,

    Have you looked into this product?

    Be well!


  39. Roman Says:

    This page has a lot of great lactoferrin information and asks a lot of good questions.

    I’ve been wrestling with lactoferrin for a year now to address low iron issues: what dosage to take, what form (apo, holo), and whether to take it at all.

    My problem with lactoferrin is I get a roller coaster effect. The first couple days on lactoferrin, everything is great. (Jarrow’s 250 mg capsules) All my iron markers improve: mood, memory, skin color. Within a few days, I notice that I’m light headed and my energy drops. My take on it is that lactoferrin eventually accumulates in the body/blood at too high a level, and it starts to scavenge iron wherever it can find it.

    This might also help to explain why some studies show iron/anemia improvement and some personal testimonials not. Or maybe some of these studies just use more iron-rich lactoferrin in them as suggested above, I don’t know.

    There are lactoferrin receptors in the body, its found all over the body, its supposed to have all these great properties, so it must have some place in our health.

    A lot of these studies test for iron and ferritin, etc. A lot of questions will be answered when they start quantifying lactoferrin numbers in the blood, etc. IMO. I’d like to see graphs of lactoferrin in the blood over time after ingestion and a standard range defined, etc.

    The conclusion I have to come to for now is that we’re just taking too much lactoferrin, especially the apolactoferrin form. One big clue has to come from the biggest “natural” source itself IMO: Colostrum. My bottle of standard Symbiotics Colostrum says it has 1.5% lactoferrin or *14 mg*(?) in each serving. If this supermilk only provides 14 mg of apo/holo-lactoferrin, then maybe we should take our cue from that.

    Once again, a great thread. Glad to see it was just updated.

  40. sarah Says:

    I have read all the comment and I have been taken lactoferrin for several month so far .it is really good for keeping me away from catching .I would like suggested my mum to take it too .but I see the ingredients has lactose ,my mum has diabetes .does diabetes person can take it
    thanks a lot

  41. JP Says:

    Many thanks for your thoughtful post, Roman! I’m sorry it took so long for me to acknowledge it!

    Be well!


  42. JP Says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Do you mean “catching colds”?

    The amount of lactose contained in most lactoferrin supplements is very, very small. IMO, only those who are very sensitive to lactose are likely to experience a reaction to it.

    I’m unaware of any studies that have specifically looked at the effects of supplemental lactoferrin in diabetics.

    Be well!


  43. DPK Says:

    All, any updates on the apolactoferrin and how it effect’s your iron levels? I have osteopenia and want to take it for bone building but also have hypothyroidism. Recently diagnosed with both. 31 year old male…

    I know that hypothyroidism can reduce iron levels so I’m worried that taking apolactoferrin could deplete my iron levels which will worsen my thyroid and then worsen my bones…

    Any thoughts on this?

  44. JP Says:

    Hi DPK,

    Have you considered adopting a Mediterranean-style diet? Here’s why I ask:

    Also, another interesting study I stumbled upon involving potassium citrate supplementation:

    Be well!


  45. alex Says:

    Take a look at this as well:

    “Rick, another mechanism by which anemia is corrected is by lowering inflammation in the body. I speak of ID anemia that is also prevalent in anemia of inflammation or as some call it: anemia of chronic disease. In this scenario, the iron is prevented from being absorbed by a peptide produced in the liver called hepcidin. The literature mentions hepcidin as a regulator of iron homeostasis in the body. Lactoferrin, reduces inflammation so that the iron is absorbed better and used by the body.

    High levels of iron sulfate actually increase levels of hepcidin (by increasing toxicity and inflammation) thus, lowering the amount of iron that can be used and causing your body to store it in its organs i.e. the liver. So now you have a situation where you have anemia with high ferritin levels. So whether the lactoferrin contains iron or not – it is still quite effective by means of reducing hepcidin. So if you look a bit further you will see that that has implications not just in pregnancy but in cancer and other inflammatory ID states.

    I have read the full study and have also read the clinical trial goals/methods. Researchers used a german-made Bovine lactoferrin supplement available in Italy commercialized by Grunenthal, as Lattoglobina® (capsules with 100 mg of bLf).

    I would recommend a standard dose of iron at about 24mg, but I would add 3 gms of buffered vitamin C daily and lactoferrin in a slightly higher dose than used for pregnancy in this study for cancer or infection/sepsis. And in sepsis, it may help cut your chances of developing DIC (but that is just my theory). I would love to see a study in cancer and anemia of inflammation with lactoferrin. By the way, one of the benefits of lactoferrin is that it helps your immune system work better and helps heal ulcers (bleeding is another cause of anemia and low iron).

    – See more at:

  46. JP Says:


    Unfortunately, I couldn’t access the content from your first link. If possible, please post it once more.

    These studies appear to support the theory presented in your previous post:

    Biometals. 2014 Oct;27(5):999-1006.

    Safety and efficacy of lactoferrin versus ferrous sulphate in curing iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia in hereditary thrombophilia pregnant women: an interventional study.

    Objective: Evaluate the safety and efficacy of bovine lactoferrin (bLf) versus the ferrous sulphate standard intervention in curing iron deficiency (ID) and ID anaemia (IDA) in pregnant women affected by hereditary thrombophilia (HT). Design: Interventional study. Setting: Secondary-level hospital for complicated pregnancies in Rome, Italy. Population: 295 HT pregnant women (≥18 years) suffering from ID/IDA. Methods: Women were enrolled in Arm A or B in accordance with their personal choice. In Arm A, 156 women received oral administration of 100 mg of bLf twice a day; in Arm B, 139 women received 520 mg of ferrous sulphate once a day. Therapies lasted until delivery. Main outcome measures: Red blood cells, haemoglobin, total serum iron, serum ferritin (haematological parameters) were assayed before and every 30 days during therapy until delivery. Serum IL-6, key factor in inflammatory and iron homeostasis disorders, was detected at enrolment and after therapy at delivery. Possible maternal, foetal, and neonatal adverse effects were assessed. Results: Haematological parameters were significantly higher in Arm A than in Arm B pregnant women (P ≤ 0.0001). Serum IL-6 significantly decreased in bLf-treated women and increased in ferrous sulphate-treated women. BLf did not exert any adverse effect. Adverse effects in 16.5 % of ferrous sulphate-treated women were recorded. Arm A women experienced no miscarriage compared to five miscarriages in Arm B women. Conclusions: Differently from ferrous sulphate, bLf is safe and effective in curing ID/IDA associated with a consistent decrease of serum IL-6. The absence of miscarriage among bLf-treated women provided an unexpected benefit.

    Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2010 Apr-Jun;23(2):577-87.

    Lactoferrin efficacy versus ferrous sulfate in curing iron disorders in pregnant and non-pregnant women.

    Iron homeostasis in pregnancy compensates for increased iron requirements and in women of child-bearing age for iron loss in menses. Oral administration of ferrous sulfate, prescribed to cure iron deficiency (ID) and ID anemia (IDA), often fails to increase hematological parameters and causes adverse effects. Recently, we demonstrated safety and efficacy of bovine lactoferrin (bLf) in pregnant women suffering from ID/IDA. Two clinical trials were conducted on pregnant and non-pregnant women of child-bearing age suffering from ID/IDA. In both trials, women received oral administration of bLf 100 mg/twice/day (Arm A), or ferrous sulfate 520 mg/day (Arm B). Hematological parameters, serum IL-6 and prohepcidin were assayed before and after therapy. Unlike ferrous sulfate, bLf increased hematological parameters (P less than 0.0001). In pregnant women, bLf decreased serum IL-6 (P less than 0.0001), and increased prohepcidin (P=0.0007). In non-pregnant women bLf did not change the low IL-6 levels while it increased prohepcidin (P less than 0.0001). Ferrous sulfate increased IL-6 (P less than 0.0001) and decreased prohepcidin (P=0.093). bLf established iron homeostasis by modulating serum IL-6 and prohepcidin synthesis, whereas ferrous sulfate increased IL-6 and failed to increase hematological parameters and prohepcidin. bLf is a more effective and safer alternative than ferrous sulfate for treating ID and IDA.

    Be well!


  47. Cherwyn Says:

    Fascinating. Thank you for this thread! I stumbled upon it while conducting a search on Lactoferrin. It seems a fellow in one of my health forums has healed his anemia with the use of Lactoferrin, so I wanted to know more about this supplement. This is merely anecdotal, so I can’t offer anything else useful to this discussion. (He is not selling any supplements, either. He simply spoke up to tell others it had worked for him). I don’t know, unfortunately, what brand he was using.

  48. JP Says:

    Thank you for letting us know, Cherwyn!

    Be well!


  49. Anna Says:

    I read through this article and I would like a recommendation for a good source of lactoferrin. I’ve searched online and you can buy plain lactoferrin supplements. You can buy colostrum supplements that contain lactoferrin. You can buy protein powders that contain lactoferrin. Too many options. What is best?

    I am iron deficient anemic. I receive iron transfusions but the numbers will not budge. I also take oral iron. I am suffering from the gastric disturbances. My obgyn is suggesting a partial hysterectomy to take away the source of my heavy bleeding. My primary care is suggesting bioidentical progesterone. I don’t love either of those alternatives. I would like to try lactoferrin but need some guidance on what product to try.

    Thank you!

  50. JP Says:

    Hi Anna,

    Personally, I would consider the Jarrow Formulas lactoferrin product. Jarrow is a quality manufacturer, it’s reasonably priced (especially online) and there many anecdotal accounts of it helping to improve iron deficiency anemia and gut health.

    One capsule daily may be a good starting point – based on the following study:

    J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2015 Jun 5:1-4.

    Lactoferrin versus ferrous sulphate for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy: a randomized clinical trial.

    OBJECTIVE: This study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of lactoferrin in comparison to ferrous sulphate for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) during pregnancy.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: This prospective, randomized, parallel-group, single-center study was conducted in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Menoufia University Hospital, Egypt and included a total of 200 pregnant women in the second trimester with IDA who were enrolled and randomly assigned either to receive 150 mg of dried ferrous sulphate capsules or lactoferrin 250 mg capsules once daily for eight consecutive weeks. The primary efficacy parameter was the amount of increase in hemoglobin concentration by 4 and 8 weeks, the adverse effects related to iron therapy and the patient compliance to the treatment.

    RESULTS: Total increase in Hb after 2 months with lactoferrin was higher (2.26 ± 0.51 g/dL) compared to ferrous sulfate (1.11 ± 0.22 g/dL) (p < 0.001). Gastrointestinal adverse events occurred more frequently with ferrous sulphate than the lactoferrin group (p < 0.001). The number of women requesting change the drug was higher in the ferrous sulphate group (p < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Lactoferrin was more effective than ferrous sulfate over a two-month period in pregnant women with IDA, with fewer gastrointestinal adverse events and better treatment acceptability. I hope this helps! Be well! JP

  51. JP Says:

    Updated 07/13/16:

    Clin Nutr. 2016 Jun 27.

    High-dose vitamin D3 reduces circulating hepcidin concentrations: A pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in healthy adults.

    BACKGROUND & AIMS: In vitro studies suggest that vitamin D may reduce hepcidin expression and pro-inflammatory cytokine release from monocytes. However, data assessing the vitamin D-mediated effects on iron recycling in healthy individuals are lacking. We aimed to examine the effect of high-dose vitamin D3 on plasma hepcidin, inflammatory cytokine, and ferritin concentrations in healthy adults.

    METHODS: This was a pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in healthy adults (N = 28) randomized to receive a one-time oral dose of 250,000 IU of vitamin D3 or placebo. Between- and within-group differences in plasma hepcidin, pro-inflammatory cytokine [interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1)], and ferritin concentrations at baseline and 1 week were determined using two-sample and paired t-tests, respectively.

    RESULTS: At baseline, plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], hepcidin, pro-inflammatory cytokine, and ferritin concentrations did not differ between the two groups, and greater than 70% of subjects in both groups were vitamin D deficient (25(OH)D < 20 ng/mL). After 1 week, plasma hepcidin concentrations decreased by 73% from baseline in those who received vitamin D3 (geometric mean ratio [GMR] = 0.27 (95% CI: 0.11-0.62); P = 0.005); there was no significant change in the placebo group (GMR = 0.73 (95% CI: 0.49-1.09); P = 0.11). Plasma cytokine and ferritin concentrations did not change significantly in either group. CONCLUSIONS: High-dose vitamin D3 significantly reduced plasma hepcidin concentrations in healthy adults 1 week post-dosing, without a change in plasma pro-inflammatory cytokine or ferritin concentrations. These data suggest that vitamin D may have a role in regulating iron recycling by acting independently of changes in pro-inflammatory markers. Be well! JP

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