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The bioactive milk protein lactoferrin has been used for many years to stimulate the immune system particularly in infant formulas where it has had wide acceptance. Work at the University of Auckland led by Dr Jill Cornish published in 2004 showed the product had strong bone building properties. Subsequent work has confirmed these first findings and it seems likely that lactoferrin may well replace the use of some of the pharmaceutical drugs used to treat osteoporosis. This article looks at some of this research and discusses the results.
Lactoferrin is a bioactive milk protein particularly concentrated in both human and bovine colostrum and has been sold for many years as a nutritional supplement with anti bacterial, anti fungal, anti viral and immune stimulating activities as shown by its wide use in infant milk formulas. However the recent work showing its bone building properties shows even greater potential. Dr Jill Cornish of the University of Auckland has shown it is a natural medicine that stimulates the activity of osteoblasts the cells that build new bone, at the same time it inhibits the growth of osteoclasts the cells that remove or weaken bone. Lactoferrin is doing what no pharmaceutical drug can do. It is stimulating bone growth and slowing the removal of bone at the same time.
Synthetic drugs used for the treatment of Osteoporosis can only do one or the other of these tasks. Bisphosphonates (Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax) and Calcitonin (Calcimar, Cibacalcin, Calsynar, Miacalcin, Osteocalcin and Salmonine) slow the removal of old bone by inhibiting the activity of osteoclasts. These drugs do nothing to stimulate osteoblasts to create new bone growth. Raloxifene (Evista) and Strontium ranlelate (Protelos) stimulates the growth of new bone but they do not inhibit the work of osteoclasts in their work of removing old bone. So this recent research showing a substance that can do both tasks is really quite exciting. As well many of these drugs have potentially serious side effects that preclude their use by many people. The bone building ability is further shown when it is directly injected to a fracture site where Dr Jill Cornish states that healing rates increase phenomenally.
A company called LactoPharma which is jointly owned by University of Auckland and the dairy company Fonterra have patents on the intellectual property and are currently developing consumer products in the bone health field with USA interests. Meanwhile the knowledge and acceptance of lactoferrin as a bone health product is growing rapidly and many mainstream medical professionals are accepting the research. Internet searches indicate Lactoferrin is freely available and the recommended rates for bone health are two 250 mg capsules per day. Trials with human patients have been carried out and links to this and the original Dr Jill Cornish are given in the resource box. The product is very safe and I have found nothing in the medical literature suggesting that there would be any negative effects of this treatment approach
To me this is a great example of how natural products can often be better than pharmaceutical drugs which often cause more problems than they cure. There are many other examples. One is where another natural product was tested at Massey University recently for the same bone health qualities and Lactoferrin used as a control. An extract of this product Nuzeacal (which is already on the market) came out 25% better than Lactoferrin in inhibiting osteoclasts and increasing osteoblasts. This could in a few years be another great natural product discovery. New Zealand has a huge future in biotechnology, developing natural health products from our wide range of plant and animal life grown in what is perceived by much of the world as a clean green desirable environment.
Is a reference to Jill Cornish’s work
Is a reference on a human trial with lactoferrin