Lactoferrin in Infant Formulas
Mature human milk contains about 2-3 mg/mL of lactoferrin. Until now, most infant formulas have not contained lactoferrin. The role of lactoferrin in human milk is discussed as a key molecule in iron absorption/transport and as an antimicrobial agent. Bovine lactoferrin is naturally iron-saturated at the 20% level. So far, only a few studies have been performed in infants fed infant formulas with bovine lactoferrin added. In a study using naturally 20% iron-saturated bovine lactoferrin, plasma ferritin levels were increased and the typical bifidus flora of human milk-fed infants was observed. Nevertheless, the results were only significant after a feeding period of 3 mo after starting formula feeding at birth. It will be discussed that human milk-lactoferrin is less (4%) iron-saturated in human milk and that the infant does not need an additional iron supply for the first 3 mo of life. Lactoferrin may also function as an anti-infective agent and may prevent the outbreak of infections. All studies do not strongly support the need of the supplementation of infant formulas with lactoferrin. Therefore, new study designs should be discussed for using bovine lactoferrin or recombinant human lactoferrin. It is also important to find out at which level (concentration) of lactoferrin in infant formulas and at what iron saturation lactoferrin should be added into infant formulas. New models for testing of lactoferrin in vivo must be designed carefully to understand the role of lactoferrin in the control of the microbiological ecosystem in the infants’ gut.
KeywordsIron Absorption Human Milk Infant Formula Iron Saturation Human Lactoferrin
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