Lactoferrin (Lf), an iron-binding multifunctional glycoprotein belonging to the transferrin family, is present in most biological secretions and reaches particularly high concentrations in colostrum and breast milk. A key function of lactoferrin is non-immune defence and it is considered to be a mediator linking innate and adaptive immune responses. Lf from bovine milk (bLf), the main Lf used in human medicine because of its easy availability, has been designated by the United States Food and Drug Administration as a food additive that is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Among the numerous protective activities exercised by this nutraceutical protein, the most important ones demonstrated after its oral administration are: Antianemic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, antioxidant and anticancer activities. All these activities underline the significance in host defence of bLf, which represents an ideal nutraceutical product both for its economic production and for its tolerance after ingestion. The purpose of this review is to summarize the most important beneficial activities demonstrated following the oral administration of bLf, trying to identify potential perspectives on its prophylactic and therapeutic applications in the future.
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