Lactoferrin (LF), a multifunctional glycoprotein in mammalian milk, is reported to exert a modulatory effect on lipid metabolism. The aim of the present study was to elucidate whether enteric-coated LF (eLF) might improve visceral fat-type obesity, an underlying cause of the metabolic syndrome. Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled design, Japanese men and women (n 26; aged 22–60 years) with abdominal obesity (BMI>25 kg/m2, and visceral fat area (VFA)>100 cm2) consumed eLF (300 mg/d as bovine LF) or placebo tablets for 8 weeks. Measurement of the total fat area, VFA and subcutaneous fat area from computed tomography images revealed a significant reduction in VFA ( − 14·6 cm2) in the eLF group, as compared with the placebo controls ( − 1·8 cm2; P = 0·009 by ANCOVA). Decreases in body weight, BMI and hip circumference in the eLF group ( − 1·5 kg, − 0·6 kg/m2, − 2·6 cm) were also found to be significantly greater than with the placebo (+1·0 kg, +0·3 kg/m2, − 0·2 cm; P = 0·032, 0·013, 0·041, respectively). There was also a tendency for a reduction in waist circumference in the eLF group ( − 4·4 cm) as compared with the placebo group ( − 0·9 cm; P = 0·073). No adverse effects of the eLF treatment were found with regard to blood lipid or biochemical parameters. From these results, eLF appears to be a promising agent for the control of visceral fat accumulation.