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Classed as a glycoprotein, it is primarily secreted by neutrophils (the most abundant type of white blood cell) and through exocrine glands and so is found in fluids such as saliva, tears, semen, bile, digestive juices, urine, blood plasma and amniotic fluid.

This protein can be found in the milk of humans and other mammals. Colostrum, the first fluid produced post-birth contains high levels of lactoferrin – about seven times the amount found in more mature breast milk as it is required to support immune and gastrointestinal development in infants.

Lactoferrin levels in the body can be used as a marker of inflammation. In fact, lactoferrin levels in stool may be used as part of the diagnostic work-up for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and some bacterial infections of the digestive tract.

What does the research say? While iron absorption is a well-established function of lactoferrin in the body, numerous research studies have uncovered a plethora of applications for this protein; from immune and gastrointestinal support, to antioxidant, bone and skin support. Lactoferrin’s properties are also being researched for use alongside chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

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