There’s only a few supplements out there that continue to both surprise and impress me, and lactoferrin is one of them. I recently posted: “20 years ago (how time flies!) I wrote about the impressive anti-viral, anti microbial, anti caner, immune supporting effects of lactoferrin via Life Extension Magazine as well as a follow up article with with additional data further supporting the wide array of benefits of this minor peptide found in whey….” and went on to cover recent studies specific to lactoferrin as an anti viral.
A large study (over a million people !) recently published suggests that blood iron levels play a role in influencing how long people live, focusing on three key measures of ageing: years lived free of disease, lifespan, and longevity, that is those who survived to an extremely old age. The study also examined key 10 key regions of the human genome known to be associated to the three aforementioned key measures, as well as gene sets linked to haem metabolism (1).
The results were striking. Researchers involved stated:
“We are very excited by these findings as they strongly suggest that high levels of iron in the blood reduces our healthy years of life, and keeping these levels in check could prevent age-related damage,” and “We speculate that our findings on iron metabolism might also start to explain why very high levels of iron-rich red meat in the diet has been linked to age-related conditions such as heart disease.“
However, the most interesting comment, as it relates to lactoferrin was:
“While we’re still in the early stages for investigating this association with iron metabolism, further down the line we could see the development of drugs designed to lower the levels of iron in the blood – which could potentially add extra years to our lives.” The bold section is where lactoferrin comes in, as such a molecule already exists…It should be noted that excess iron being associated with aging and aging related diseases is not new, but looking at how it impacts genomic pathways is, and this study connects some very important dots as to why.
Lactoferrin modulates iron status, vs simply irreversibly binding or adding, iron. It should also be noted that while excess iron is negative, the immune system does require it to attack pathogens, and lactoferrin donates the iron during that process. As per so many things, it’s not just the issue of too much/too little per se, but in what tissues, at what levels, when/where you need them.
Various studies find that lactoferrin is of benefit where either excess iron exists, as well as insufficient (anemia) exists, and may be “just what the doctor ordered” for controlling excess iron that the study suggests leads to accelerated aging and death. That is conjecture on my end to be sure, but I have been right far more often than I have been wrong in conjecturing over the past three plus decades, and lactoferrin has more than sufficient data in my view to warrant using for reasons covered in my articles linked above. Obviously, more data is needed but the bulk of the data continues to suggest lactoferrin has wide range of potential benefits to health, disease prevention, and longevity. For those who want to get into the weeds further, specific to lactoferrin and iron Homeostasis, see:
Lactoferrin: A Natural Glycoprotein Involved in Iron and Inflammatory Homeostasis. Int J M. 2017 Sep; 18(9): 1985.
Lactoferrin in Aseptic and Septic Inflammation. Molecules. 2019 Apr 3;24(7):1323.
Lactoferrin Efficiently Counteracts the Inflammation-Induced Changes of the Iron Homeostasis System in Macrophages. Front Immunol . 2017 Jun 15;8:705.
The Biology of Lactoferrin, an Iron-Binding Protein That Can Help Defend Against Viruses and Bacteria. Front. Immunol., 28 May 2020
(1) Multivariate genomic scan implicates novel loci and haem metabolism in human ageing. Nat Commun 11, 3570 (2020).
Ageing phenotypes, such as years lived in good health (healthspan), total years lived (lifespan), and survival until an exceptional old age (longevity), are of interest to us all but require exceptionally large sample sizes to study genetically. Here we combine existing genome-wide association summary statistics for healthspan, parental lifespan, and longevity in a multivariate framework, increasing statistical power, and identify 10 genomic loci which influence all three phenotypes, of which five (near FOXO3, SLC4A7, LINC02513, ZW10, and FGD6) have not been reported previously at genome-wide significance. The majority of these 10 loci are associated with cardiovascular disease and some affect the expression of genes known to change their activity with age. In total, we implicate 78 genes, and find these to be enriched for ageing pathways previously highlighted in model organisms, such as the response to DNA damage, apoptosis, and homeostasis. Finally, we identify a pathway worthy of further study: haem metabolism.
Will Brink is the owner of the Brinkzone Blog. Will has over 30 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.
His often ground breaking articles can be found in publications such as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors.
He’s also been published in peer reviewed journals.
You can also buy Will’s other books on Amazon, Apple iBook, and Barnes and Noble.