Breastfed infants are less likely to get infections than formula-fed newborns. The presence of the anti-infective and anti-inflammatory protein lactoferrin, as well as the decreased iron content in breast milk, are two probable explanations for it. For a study, researchers examined how adding bovine lactoferrin and lowering the iron content of baby formula affected immunology and infection risk in healthy newborns.

From 6 weeks to 6 months of age, term formula-fed (FF) Swedish infants (n=180) were randomized to receive a low-iron formula (2 mg/L) with added bovine lactoferrin (1.0 g/L) (Lf+; n=72), a low-iron formula with no added lactoferrin (Lf-; n=72), or a standard formula with 8 mg/L iron and no added lactoferrin (CF; n=36). Cytokines, infections, and infection-related therapies were studied up to the age of 12 months.

There were no negative consequences detected. There were no discernible effects on transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β)1, TGF-β2, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), or interleukin2 (IL-2) levels at 4, 6, or 12 months, with the exception of greater TGF-β2 levels at 6 months in the CF group compared to the low iron groups combined (P=0.033). During the first 6 months, no significant changes in otitis, respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, or other monitored illnesses and treatments were reported for any of the study feeding groups, and only a few divergent effects were seen between 6 and 12 months.

The addition of bovine lactoferrin and reduction of iron from 8 to 2 mg/L in the newborn formula was shown to be safe. In the well-nourished and healthy group, no clinically meaningful effects on cytokines or infection-related morbidity were detected.