Impact of Lactoferrin-Fortified Formula on Iron Status in Term Infants

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Topic(s): Nutrition Health & Wellness Obesity Nutrition & Disease Management

Effect of Lactoferrin-Fortified Formula on Iron Metabolism in Term Infants

Exclusively breastfed infants do not show signs of iron deficiency during the first 6 months of life despite low concentration of iron in breast milk. This has been attributed to increased bioavailability of iron. It has been suggested that the iron-binding protein lactoferrin facilitates iron absorption from breast milk. A study published in the journal Nutrition aimed to investigate the effects of iron-fortified formula with concentration of lactoferrin on iron status and haematologic indexes in term infants.

In this controlled intervention study, 260 infants aged 4–6 months were randomly assigned to lactoferrin-fortified formula milk (fortified group; FG) or no lactoferrin-fortified formula milk (control group; CG) for 3 months. Anthropometric indices such as weight, height, head circumference, low weight for age (WAZ), low weight for height (WHZ), and low height for age (HAZ) as well as biochemical parameters such as concentrations of serum ferritin (SF), haemoglobin (Hb), serum transferring receptor (sTfR) along with sTfR-SF index (TFR-F index), and total body iron content (TBIC) were measured before and after the intervention.

No significant differences were seen between the two groups with respect to daily formula intake and iron element. Compared to the CG group, infants in the FG group were found to have significantly higher weight (8723±245 g versus 8558 ± 214 g), WHZ (0.98 ±0.31 versus 0.41± 0.12), WAZ (1.02 ±0.31 versus 0.44±0.18), Hb (125.5±15.4 g/L versus 116.9±13.1 g/L), TBIC (6.12±0.78 mg/kg versus 5.26±0.55 mg/kg), SF (44.7±17.2 µg/L versus 31.6±18.4 µg/L), and TFR-F (1.88±0.41 versus 1.26±0.39). A significantly lower prevalence of anaemia, iron-deficient anaemia, and iron deficiency was seen in the FG group (4.1%, 1.7%, 13.9% respectively) compared to the CG group (7.5%, 6.1%, 24.4% respectively).

The study concluded that supplementation with lactoferrin-fortified formula in infants who were exclusively breastfed positively affected the iron and Hb statuses and resulted in increased TBIC and intestinal iron absorption.

News Source: Ke C, Lan Z, Hua L, et al. Iron metabolism in infants: influence of bovine lactoferrin from iron-fortified formula. Nutrition. 2015;31(2):304-309.