Kefir is a food product that is made from fermented milk. It is made of special kefir grains that have a balanced amount of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. It is believed to improve health by enhancing immunity, decreasing blood cholesterol, and also decreasing cancer causing substances called carcinogens. This review focused on various studies that analyzed the functional properties and benefits of kefir.
Fermented food products and those containing live beneficial microorganisms, such as bacteria, provide benefit to consumers in more than one way. There are studies that show that probiotics or beneficial food bacteria can help to improve digestion, improve immunity, decrease blood cholesterol, improve tolerance to milk products and that they also possess some anticancer properties. Kefir, a food product made by fermenting milk, originated in one of the tribes of the Northern Caucasus mountain region in Russia. Kefir grains are used as seeds and are put in milk that is left at 77 F for 22 hours at a stretch. These grains contain microbes that multiply within the milk and produce lactic acid and other compounds. The final mixture is refreshing and contains “a mixture of lactic acid, carbon dioxide, acetaldehyde, acetoin, slight alcohol, and other fermentation flavor products.” Many studies have been conducted that show the benefits of this drink. This review analyzed the previous evidence that shows benefits offered by kefir.
This review analyzed all the latest studies on kefir, which examined its various benefits for humans who consumed it. This review also assessed laboratory and animal studies of kefir in order to understand its other benefits at the molecular level, such as anticancer properties. The studies that looked into its benefits to the digestive system, immunity, lowering of cholesterol, probiotic properties, and improvement of lactose tolerance were also reviewed.
* Some laboratory and animal studies showed that kefir reduced cancer causing substances or carcinogens more effectively than other probiotics like yogurt. Studies on animals also revealed that kefir could reduce some types of tumors.
* Some animal studies have revealed that kefir reduced blood cholesterol while others failed to do so. Thus, the actual effects of kefir on cholesterol lowering are unclear.
* The animal and laboratory studies have also shown that kefir helps in healing wounds and to some extent prevents wound infections. These studies have also shown that kefir improves immunity.
* The animal studies showed that those who were intolerant to milk products responded well to kefir. Human trials were also conducted and it was seen that flatulence, which is a common problem with those who are intolerant to dairy products, reduced by 71% when consuming kefir.
The authors admit that of all the reviewed studies, there have been few human studies that examined the benefits of kefir on humans. They suggest that further studies need to be conducted to analyze the benefits of kefir in the laboratory, on animals as well as on human beings on a large-scale.
Kefir is a dairy product obtained by special methods of fermentation. Apart from being a refreshing drink, it also offers many health benefits, as proved by several studies. This review analyzed the various benefits of kefir to humans and animals. It is seen that the unique chemical composition of this drink is responsible for its probiotic effects. Its benefits include anticancer effects, marginal cholesterol lowering effects, improvements in immunity and also some antibacterial and better wound healing functions. Apart from this, kefir also leads to better digestion and reduces milk intolerance and its ill effects. The authors suggest that further studies be conducted on humans to demonstrate and quantify the actual benefits of this unique food product.
For More Information:
Review: Functional Properties of Kefir
Publication Journal: Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, March 2011
By Zeynep Guzel-Seydim; Tugba Kok-Tas; Süleyman Demirel University, Çünür, Isparta, Turkey; Clemson University, South Carolina
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.