Lactoferrin pp 389-397 | Cite as

Lactoferrin in Infant Formulas

How and Why?
  • Günther Sawatzki
Part of the Experimental Biology and Medicine book series (EBAM, volume 28)


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.


Iron Absorption Human Milk Infant Formula Iron Saturation Human Lactoferrin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brock, J. H. (1980) Lactoferrin in human milk: its role in iron absorption and protection against enteric infection in the newborn infant. Arch. Dis. Child. 55, 417–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bullen, J. J., Rogers, H. J., and Leigh, L. (1972) Iron-binding proteins in milk and resistance to Escherichia coli infection in infants. Br. Med. J. 1, 69–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chierici, R., Sawatzki, G., Tamisari, L., Volpato, S., and Vigi, V. (1992) Supplementation of an adapted formula with bovine lactoferrin. 2. Effects on serum iron, ferritin and zinc levels. Acta Paediatr. 81, 475–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Davidsson, L., Kastenmayer, R, Yuen, M., Lönnerdal, B., and Hurrell, R. R (1994) Influence of lactoferrin on iron absorption from human milk in infants. Pediatr. Res. 35, 117–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fairweather-Tait, S. J., Balmer, S. E., Scott, P. H., and Minski, M. J. (1987) Lactoferrin and iron absorption in newborn infants. Pediatr. Res. 22, 651–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Houghton, M. R., Gracey, M., Burke, V., Bottrell, C., and Spargo, R. M. (1985) Breast milk lactoferrin levels in relation to maternal nutritional status. J. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Nutr. 4, 230–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lönnerdal, B. and Hernell, O. (1994) Iron, zinc, copper and selenium status of breast-fed infants and infants fed trace element fortified milk-based infant formula. Acta Paediatr. 83, 367–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Oski, R A. (1993) Iron deficiency in infancy and childhood. New Engl. J. Med. 329, 190–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Prentice, A., Ewing, G., Roberts, S. B., Lucas, A., MacCarthy, A., Jarjou, L. M. A., and Whitehead, R. G. (1987) The nutritional role of breast-milk IgA and lactoferrin. Acta Paediatr. Scand. 76, 592–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Roberts, A. K., Chierici, R., Sawatzki, G., Hill, M. J., Volpato, S., and Vigi, V. (1992) Supplementation of an adapted formula with bovine lactoferrin: 1. Effect on the infant faecal flora. Acta Paediatr. 81, 119–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Schäfer, K. H. (1970) Discussion, in Iron Deficiency (Halberg, L., Harwerth, H. G., and Vannotti, A., eds.), Academic, London, pp. 524–526.Google Scholar
  12. Stephens, S., Dolby, J. M., Montreuil, J., and Spik, G. (1980) Differences in inhibition of the growth of commensal and enteropathogenic strains of Escherichia coli by lactotransferrin and secretory immunoglobulin A isolated from human milk. Immunology 41, 597–603.Google Scholar
  13. Wakabayashi, H., Bellamy, W., Mitsunori, T., and Tomita, M. (1992) Inactivation of Listeria monocytogenes by Lactoferricin, a potent antimicrobial peptide derived from cow’s milk. J. Pood Prot. 4, 238–240.Google Scholar
  14. Wharton, B. A. and Balmer, S. E. (1993) Diet and faecal flora in the newborn, in New Perspectives in Infant Nutrition (Renner, B. and Sawatzki, G., eds.), Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart, pp. 89–94.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Günther Sawatzki

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations