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A pill originally used to help treat low iron levels has shown promising results in a new study to help offer protection from coronavirus. With rising case numbers and winter’s imminent arrival, could a daily supplement help to protect you?
Antiviral properties found in lactoferrin supplements could be used as an adjunct for COVID-19 and for various other Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs) according to a team of researchers led by the University of Huddersfield.
Lactoferrin is a protein naturally found in breastmilk, for example in cow milk and human milk, and is also found in fluids in the eye, nose, respiratory tract, intestine, and elsewhere.
The benefits of the supplement have been well documented however, it wasn’t known if taking the molecule as a supplement would have the same beneficial value, until now. The study was headed by Dr Hamid Merchant from the University of Huddersfield Department of Pharmacy.
It is one of the first meta-analyses carried out on multiple independent lactoferrin clinical trials and has now been published in an official publication of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN).
The study has made evident that the administration of Lactoferrin shows promising efficacy in reducing the risk of RTIs, which is proven to be a key ingredient for our natural defence systems against invading viruses. Dr Merchant said of the discovery: “This is a very promising molecule which can be adopted as an adjunct therapy for COVID-19 and could be part of a daily routine for people to take, along with vitamin C, D and Zinc supplements to keep our immune system healthy.
“Particularly now winter is almost upon us we need this extra protection a lot more now than during the summer.”
Lactoferrin is most commonly used for low iron levels in women who are pregnant and for preventing blood infection (sepsis) in premature infants.
It is also used for many other conditions.
It is this antiviral property of lactoferrin that makes it a great supplement for use as an adjunct for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, but Dr Merchant believes these are still preliminary findings and warrant further evidence from a large, well-designed randomised controlled trial.
“Given the high clinical importance of respiratory tract infections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we aimed to systematically examine the interventional Randomised Clinical Trials on the efficacy of bovine lactoferrin in preventing the occurrence of RTIs,” added Dr Syed Hasan, another of the University’s researchers involved in the study.
“The administration of Lactoferrin showed promising efficacy in reducing the risk of RTIs and may also have a beneficial role in managing symptoms and recovery of patients suffering from RTIs,” he said.
“Current evidence also favours lactoferrin fortification of infant formula – it won’t be long until parents should be able to find lactoferrin fortified infant formulas readily available on the shelves,” Dr Merchant added.
Lactoferrin helps regulate how well iron is absorbed into the body from the intestine.
It also seems to protect against infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Lactoferrin seems to slow down the growth of bacteria by starving them of nutrients. It also destroys the walls around the bacteria.
Lactoferrin is prepared by specialised dairy companies who make milk, infant formulas or milk-based products that isolate this biomolecule from the milk and various other companies then procure it to sell as a supplement.
However, Dr Merchant argues that lots of low-cost lactoferrin supplements being sold online are not of desired quality because with it being a biomolecule that is classed as a nutritional supplement, the production of lactoferrin isn’t legally enforced to follow the same strict regulatory process as for medicines.
It’s important to consult with your GP before embarking on any new supplements.
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