What is kefir?
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 21:00:34 -0800
From: 121 <email@example.com>
Subject: Kefir research
In November 1881 the German naturalist Eduard Kern reported to Botanic
Society in St. Petersburg about a mysterious beverage, which was
exclusive common to the higher regions of the Caucasus and said to
assure the inhabitants of this area good health and a very long life
This beverage is kefir, a fermented milk product whose particular
features is that in addition to lactic fermentation it also undergoes
alcoholic fermentation caused by the presence of yeast, which yields
this sourish, yeasty, sparkling, refreshing end product.
Kefir is not only a very valuable tasty, physiologically nutritional
milk product it is said to be a “miracle” product.
Research conducted by East European institutes has proven that there is
something to the reputation of kefir. In Rumania where research has been
carried out by Professor Dr. Asian on the causes of old age, the effect
of kefir on prolonging life is being studied. According to gerontologist
at the Genatric Centre of Suchumi (former USSR) the importance of kefir
has not yet been completely recognized. The general opinion is that the
life-prolonging effect is to be attributed to certain components of the
Moreover, kefir seems to have a stabilizing and, to some extent a
youth-preserving effect on the human organism, but only if one’s entire
diet is completely altered and the kefir is not only consumed as a
side-dish, a snack or a dessert. When following the kefir diet
recommendations developed in Rumania, one’s organism re-adjust within
The functioning of liver, gallbladder, circulation, heart activity,
metabolism, oxygen supply to the cells, blood circulation to the brain
improves and stabilizes. Also so-called senility does not occur or is
even reversed and the elasticity of the blood vessels and joints is
restored. Rheumatism and coronary thrombosis do not stand a chance if a
special kefir diet is followed: between the ages of 25 and 30 at the
latest 1-1/2 Tblsp. of kefir should be consumed twice a day. Numerous
scientific tests are being performed to determine the effect of kefir
especially in Eastern Europe.
Originally Kefir beverage was obtained by adding the so-called grains to
fresh milk and then incubating them at 64 – 75º F for approx. 24 hours.
The origin of Kefir grains themselves is unknown. To date it has not
been possible to simulate the spontaneous formation of kefir grains
using single isolates of kefir flora. New kefir grains can only be
obtained from propagating and dividing of existing kefir grains.
*CHARACTERISTIC COMPOSITION OF KEFIR FLORA*
Kefir is a natural probiotic. It contains live active cultures of
normal flora that will actually repopulate your digestive tract and aid
in digestion. Kefir is superior to yogurt because yogurt is made with
transient, less potent bacteria.
The bacteria in yogurt will last a few days in the digestive tract, and
you need to keep reintroducing them. Kefir contains more organisms than
yogurt, and the “normal flora” in kefir is made of very strong strains
of micro organisms (unlike yogurt) which will help to over take
pathogenic organisms that have taken over. Kefir will repopulate the
digestive tract with good organisms. We consider this the more natural
way to add good bacteria to the digestive tract and feel these strains
are superior to any capsules which might contain organisms that have
The cultures on Kefir and active and growing when the enter your body.
They thrive in dairy and use up the lactose and partially digest the
proteins, making it a product that most people can ingest and will
benefit from. Even people with milk sensitivities can usually drink kefir.
In addition to repopulating the digestive tract, enzyme stores are added
to in the body. Many people in the US currently take digestive enzymes.
They have been told they are not digesting their food properly, that
their enzyme stores have run out, and they will have to take enzymes the
rest of their life. Unfortunately, their health care providers have
missed something that Sally Fallon and the Weston A. Price people along
with people like Donna Gates of Body Ecology have come to realize: that
cultured foods will actually add back enzyme stores into the enzyme
banks of the body and aid the body in digesting other foods.
Kefir, cultured cream, buttermilk, cultured vegetables, etc all add
predigested food full of vitamins and minerals, normal flora, and
enzymes to the body. We believe these are valuable foods, part of all
good traditional diets, that have become lost in the society of today.
And We believe bringing them back is essential for optimal health.
*IS IT DIFFERENT THAN YOGURT?*
Yes. There is research showing that Yogurt contains left turning
bacteria and kefir contains right turning bacteria. This researcher
even states that young children and nursing mothers should stay away
from the left turning bacteria found in Yogurt. He shows from his
research that kefir and its right turning bacteria are far superior and
much more beneficial to the digestive tract than the cultures found in
Yogurt contains transient bacteria and will not repopulate the digestive
tract, but the active, growing, living cultures in kefir will.
The lactose in kefir is all digested by the time it is ingested, and
some of the proteins have been broken down. Therefore, kefir can be
used by many people who have sensitivities to milk . The same is not
true with yogurt. Kefir can be made from any milk: goat, cow, ox,
sheep, etc. A dairy free kefir can also be made from young coconuts.
This is very exciting.
*IS TAKING PROBIOTICS JUST AS GOOD?*
Probiotics are capsules or tablets that contain some of the same healthy
bacteria found in kefir. The differences between kefir and probiotics
are significant, however. While probiotics contain good organisms that
can repopulate the digestive tract, they need to be kept dormant
(refrigerated) and are not actively replicating and growing when they
arrive in your intestines. In addition, they are not in any medium that
will coat the digestive tract and help them to become established, but
rather they are in the process of being dormant and are actually slowly
decreasing in population as they die off over time.
Kefir, on the other hand has massive quantities of healthy normal flora
that are in the process of growing, increasing in number, and thriving.
They are eaten in the medium they are thriving in, such the cultured
milk or coconut water, which will coat the digestive tract and help them
to establish residence there. This is a tremendous boost to your
system and will repopulate your digestive tract more quickly, more
efficiently, and more thoroughly than probiotics.
Midvalleyvu Farms now offers fresh, homemade, raw Kefir for our Farm
Share owners. If you haven’t tried it yet, be sure to pick up a pint or
quart. You’ll soon feel what you’ve been missing!
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 20:55:34 -0800
From: 121 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: EFFECTS OF KEFIR
*EFFECTS OF KEFIR*
*From experience of generations, here are some of the properties
possessed by the real kefir.
* Regulates the body’s immune system and improves resistance to diseases.
* Regulates the blood pressure, blood sugar and cures diabetes.
* Heals the lungs, bronchitis, tuberculosis, asthma, allergies and migraine.
* Has a positive influence on the heart and blood, heals circulatory
* Heals various eczema, all skin disorders and leads to cure of acne.
* Heals the kidneys, the urinary tract and protects prostate.
* Has a positive influence on cholesterol, osteoporosis and rheumatism.
* Supports enzymes production and heals the pancreas.
* Improves the liver and gallbladder, regulates bile production,
influences positively hepatitis.
* Regulates metabolism, digestion and heals diseases of the colon.
* Heals colitis, diarrhea, catarrh, reflux, leaky gut syndrome,
candidasis and more.
* Rebalance the intestinal flora and stomach acid, heals duodenum and
* Produces its own antibiotics, eliminates unfriendly bacteria, cures
internal and external inflammations.
* Heals lactose intolerance and provides full digestibility of milk
* Produces own anti-cancer compounds, prevents metastasis, and leads to
* Slows the aging process, smoothes and improves skin, hair and muscle
* Reduces anxiety, depression, increases energy and feeling of wellbeing.
* Produces all necessary vitamins and beneficial bacteria needed for our
healthy daily life.
Almost century of scientific and medical research confirming the above
is available from Diary Research Institute in former USSR. With the
worldwide cost of medical care getting inflated by chronic diseases,
real kefir is gaining popularity not only for its health benefits, but
also for its effects in lowering medical cost. With increasing
resistance to antibiotics, intensive research of the real kefir is
conducted in Europe and Japan. The results are supporting the experience
*_WHAT YOU WILL NEED BEFORE YOU START_*
* One 1.00->1.50 liter mixing bowl with opening similar to the diameter
* One plastic strainer for vegetables with holes about 2-3 millimeters wide.
* Two 1.00 liter clear glass/plastic containers with wider opening and a
* One cooking thermometer, better digital
* One set of plastic measuring cups.
* One plastic or wooden spoon.
* One flexible scraper.
*_WHAT MILK TO USE_*
The best is raw goat milk from certified organic farm. However,
pasteurized cows milk with 2%-9% fat content, works also fine. There is
also possibility to produce non-milk kefir, but that’s another story.
Kefir production and taste is matter of balance between following factors:
—— the amount of grains
more grains = use more milk or set for less time
—— the activity of the grains
less active = use less milk of set for longer time
—— the amount of time
less time = use more grains or use less milk
—— the temperature
warmer = the faster the grains work and grow
—— tightly closed lid or loose lid
tight = carbonated, loose = non carbonated
In addition to temperature, a pinch or two of unrefined cane sugar helps
the grains to work and grow faster. With established grains and right
balance of factors, common time to full fermentation is around 24H. When
you will be more experienced, you will know how to adjust the factors
and get always the same quality of kefir you like. The kefir grains grow
best when they have steadily their spot in your room, when frequently
agitated during a day, when grains to milk ratio is between 1:20>35,
when room temperature around the glass container is about 25Celsius and
when there is not much of direct light. Should you wish to slow the
fermenting process, do not add the sugar and keep temperature around the
container about 15C.
*_WHEN IS THE KEFIR READY_*
You can tell by the level of coagulation. The last place of coagulation
is at the bottom of the glass container; you should see curds and whey
separate into layers and pockets. When you turn the container around, if
the coagulated bottom moves as milk, it is not yet ready. When the
coagulated bottom will be firm as a thick jelly, not much moving, it is
ready. It may be tricky when without experience, but within a week or
two, you will find out when kefir is ready. The longer fermentation
time, the sourer the kefir is. If you are in drinking kefir for
eliminating lactose intolerance, you will need to ferment close to 36H.
However, never drink a kefir fermented over 48H, it provides a serious
constipation! With 12H of fermenting, it works like a gentle laxative,
24H gives fully fermented balanced kefir. Overfermenting is not
advisable, since kefir pH becomes too acidic and growth of grains slows.
Normally, the grains tend to double in size about every 20 days. When
you will have more than you need, offer some to your friends or anyone
around the globe who may need their miraculous power. When you do so,
always supply with the grains the Kefir Manual and ask for the symbolic
For start, you should have about 1/4 of teaspoon of real kefir grains,
either fresh or suspended for shipping. If fresh, put them in milk and
they will continue to work right away. If suspended, put them in milk
too, but they will work slow since there is activity recovery time about
4-7 days. If they come in winter, use glass thermometer (for children)
to find their temperature. Warm 1 cup of milk (2% or 3.6%) to the same
temperature (that’s why you have cooking thermometer) as the grains
have. Add to the milk a pinch of unrefined cane sugar, mix to dissolve.
Pour the warm milk to the glass container and move carefully the grains
there. Cover the glass container with a lid, and place it to a warm
(22-25C) and slightly dim spot.
Every few hours agitate/shake gently the glass container for a few
seconds to move fresh milk to the grains. Never place the glass
container in a fridge or on a direct sunlight! When you see on the
bottom of the glass container that the milk is clearly separated into
whey and curds (this may take more than 24H for the first few batches)
shake again to mix the whey and curds into homogenous liquid. Then is
time for first milking!
Take the glass bowl, place plastic strainer on it and pour the whole
content of the glass container to the strainer. Shake the strainer to
separate the thick curds from the grains. The slightly yellow things in
the strainer are your kefir grains. Gently separate the grains from the
curds and place the curds into the glass bowl. What is in the glass bowl
is your first batch of kefir. However, do not drink this first kefir.
Take from it about half of its volume, return it back to the glass
container and throw away the rest of the first kefir. Then add to the
returned kefir 1 1/4 cup of new milk (warm around 20-22C), then move
grains gently with a spoon from the strainer to the glass container.
Cover with a lid. Now you are brewing your second batch!
Again, every few hours shake gently the glass container. When the whey
and curds clearly separate on the bottom, proceed as above. This second
batch is drinkable. However, the right kefir will come after the first
4-6 batches. For the first batches, the ratio between grains and milk
should be 1 part of grains to 20 parts of milk. Later, when your grains
will adapt to their new home and your love, you may achieve ratio up to
1:60 for 24H fermenting. With all the next batches, follow the above
procedure. In principle, always return about 1/2 of the kefir back to
the glass container (don’t forget the grains!) and add the same amount
or more of milk warm between 20-22C.
Those of you, who are into kefir drinking for eliminating candida
overgrowth, may be scared to death learning that kefir culture contains
also candida yeast. Don’t panic, all is OK! The candida yeast in kefir
is a vicious cannibalistic sister of the infamous Candida albicans! In
addition to it, the kefir culture contains host of other microorganism
and all of them eat Candida albicans 24H per day. All available
scientific research and uncountable personal experiences confirm that
drinking kefir will free you (with no side effects) form burden with
This leads one more bit of information – yeast in kefir produce CO_2 gas
and with tightly closed or locked lid, the fully filled container may
explode. If you wish to use very tight lid, never fill the glass
container more than 2/3 of its volume. With a tight lid, you get
carbonated kefir. With lose lid, you get flat kefir.
Small glass, 3/4 to 1 cup daily, preferably after the evening meal, is a
common prevention drink. Kefir is not only special nourishment, but also
special medication. If kefir drinking is intended for treating serious
diseases, it is advisable to change diet to living foods, then detoxify
and cleanse the body, liver, kidneys and bowels. This greatly increases
effects of healing properties of kefir. For candida overgrowth or
general disorders of colon, take 1 cup first thing on the morning and 1
cup one hour after supper for 3 days, then for 3 days take no kefir.
Apply this on and off regime for 3-4 weeks. If no relief was obtained,
you may gradually double dosage and continue for 3 months or more.
However, even when you will have kefir pause, the grains don’t pause.
You must regularly milk the grains and feed them as if you would need to
drink the kefir!
The same on and off regime applies to eczema, skin problems, acne,
allergies, arthritis and so on. When chronically ill with a serious
disease, again, the same regime applies. Start with 1 cup first thing on
the morning and 1 cup one hour after supper. Within a week, gradually
increase to 2 cups & 2 cups per day. At this time you may experience
body rash or shingles, however, gradually increase to 3 cups & 3 cups
per day and continue for at least 6 months. If wasting continues,
gradually increase to 4 cups & 4 cups per day for 20 days then do not
drink kefir for 10 days. Then drink 20 days.
Apply this potent on/off regime for the next months. Although there are
many documented studies that kefir is able to miraculously heal even
gravely ill, kefir is a gift of God, not omnipotent God.
For generations, the people from Caucasus give kefir to newborns as a
substitute or addition to mother’s milk, they also drink pure glacial
water; breath unpolluted air, eats living foods and thickened kefir as
bread or dessert. Their verified life span in a full physical and mental
acuity, lies between 110 – 140 years (the last is not a rare
occurrence), they have no cavities, they are free of diabetes, prostate,
tuberculosis, digestive disorders, cancers and other common diseases of
our highly evolved society. Clearly, prevention and living food is the
best thing for health and longevity.
WITH LOVE AND WISHES OF GOOD HEALTH !
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 21:12:08 -0800
From: 121 <email@example.com>
Subject: Health properties of kefir
For complete web page go to: *
*Health properties of kefir*
Kefir enjoys a rich tradition of health claims. In the former
Soviet Union, it is used in hospitals and sanatoria for a variety of
conditions, including metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis, and allergic
disease (1). It has even been used for the treatment of tuberculosis,
cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders when no modern medical treatment
was available. Its consumption has also been associated with longevity
in Caucasus (20) . Various scientists have observed digestive benefits
of kefir (21, 22) , but controlled studies have yet to confirm their
Various research teams around the world have reported
encouraging results, but several methodological difficulties still need
to be resolved. Most studies to date have been performed in vitro or
using animal models, and human studies are not available. Further, the
effects of kefir grains or their isolates are often studied, rather than
the product kefir, and there is no evidence that the observed effects
would occur using the drink itself. Also, kefir products vary
significantly according to the composition of the grains used and even
according to the region in which it is made, and therefore specific
effects may not be demonstrated in all kefirs. Given these caveat, a
variety of health benefits are being investigated. Table 3 presents
recent studies using kefir products.
Several studies have investigated the antitumor activity of
kefir (20, 23, 24) and of kefir grains (25, 26) . Specific cultures
isolated from kefir were also shown to bind to mutagenic substances such
as indole and imidazole (27, 28). Immune system stimulation with kefir
(24) and with sphingomyelin isolated from the lipids of kefir (29) have
been demonstrated in both in vitro and in vivo studies.
Kefir (30) possesses antimicrobial activity in vitro against a
wide variety of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria (20, 31), and
against some fungi (20) . In Zacconi et al.ís recent study (30), the
antagonistic effects of kefir against Salmonella kedougou were
attributed to the complexity and vitality of the kefir microflora. De
Vrese et al . (32) demonstrated that fresh, but not heat treated,
disintegrated kefir grains suspended in kefir directly enhanced
intestinal lactose digestion in minipigs. This effect was attributed to
microbial b-galactosidase activity of kefir. The above studies provide
encouraging results, but much more research is necessary in order to
demonstrate similar effects using kefir in humans. Further, a
standardized, well-defined product must be used in order to provide
Research on fermented milks (FM) has grown dramatically in the past 20
years. FM have probiotic effects since their consumption leads to the
ingestion of large numbers of live bacteria which exert health benefits
beyond basic nutrition. Major results of research are as follows. Yogurt
consumption reduces symptoms of lactose maldigestion compared to milk.
FM, may have antibacterial and immunological properties. Ingestion of
the lactic acid bacteria bifidobacteria improves the colonic microflora
by increasing bifidobacteria levels. Lactobacillus casei reduces the
duration of some types of diarrhea. Future research conducted using
human subjects, with rigorous methodology and modern statistical
analysis, will provide further information on the health benefits of FM.
*Keywords:* fermented milk, probiotic, yogurt, kefir, Lactobacillus
streptococcus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus casei,
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB): a large group of bacteria with the
common characteristic of producing lactic acid as the principal end
product of metabolism; found in milk and other natural environments LAB
can be: a. homofermentative: produce 70-90% lactic acid; e.g., L.
bulgaricus, S. thermo-philus, L. acidophilus b. heterofermentative:
produce at least 50% lactic acid plus other compounds such as acetic
acid, CO2, and ethanol; e.g., L. casei, bifidobacteria a. mesophilic:
grow best at a temperature range of 25-30¡C; e.g., L. casei b.
thermophilic: prefer a range of 40-44¡C; e.g., L. bulgaricus, S.
thermophilus a. Facultatively prefer anaerobic anaerobic: conditions for
metabolism, but are aero-tolerant (most LAB fit in this b. Strictly
anaerobic: survive only in anaerobic conditions; e.g., bifidobacteria
Foods that, by virtue of physiologically active food components,
provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition (Working definition of
ILSI Functional Food Task Force, Brussels, February 17,1997).
Interleukin, interferon, tumor necrosis factor: examples of cytokines,
which serve as signals between cells involved in immune response. sIgA:
secretory immunoglobulin A; principal antibody produced by the gut
Azoreductase,§-glucuronidase, glycocholic acid hydrolase,
nitroreductase: colonic enzymes implicated in the conversion of
procarcinogens to carcinogens. LDL/HDL: ratio between blood levels of
low density lipoprotein and high density lipoprotein; level above 3
indicates increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Breath hydrogen
test: measurement of hydrogen expired after oral lactose load of 12-50 g
compared to base level; > 10-20 ppm indicates malabsorption.
*From legend to science: Historical perspective*
For centuries, fermented milks have been purported to provide a
large gamut of health benefits, from improving well-being to increasing
longevity. One story recounts that in the sixteenth century, King
Fran*ois the First of France suffered from persistent diarrhea, and
after several unsuccessful treatments, a Turkish doctor was sent in. He
brought with him sheep and a secret recipe for yogurt. The king was soon
cured of his intestinal infection.
Scientific interest began much later, in the early twentieth century,
when Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel-prize winning biologist at the Pasteur
Institute in Paris, first suggested that lactobacilli might counteract
the putrefactive effects of gastrointestinal metabolism (1). In the past
twenty years, scientific research has blossomed, with an interest in
topics ranging from antimicrobial effects to reduction of risk of
cancer. Much valuable preliminary work has been done using animal or in
vitro models, which allow for much greater control over variables than
when studying humans, and which offer reproducible results. These models
are also useful for studying the mechanisms involved.
Studying the effects of FM on humans presents several challenges.
Fermented milksare unctional foods, and as such, their impact on human
physiology is of a small amplitude and not easily detected. Also, early
humans studies, though numerous, were generally case reports rather than
modern experimental studies (randomized). Currently, researchers are
beginning to address these methodological problems.
*Yogurt, the ever-popular fermented milk*
According to the Codex Alimentarius (5), yogurt is milk (usually
cowís milk) that has been fermented by Streptococcus thermophilus and
Lactobacillus bulgaricus under defined conditions of time and
temperature. Each species of bacteria stimulates the growth of the
other, and the products of their combined metabolism produce the
characteristic creamy texture and mild acid flavor. Fermentation is
stopped by cooling, and the final product, which contains100-1000
million live bacteria per ml, is refrigerated until use. As a fresh
dairy product, it has a limited shelf-life.
*1. Milk digestibility*
Given all the research to date on FM, the fact that lactose is
better digested from yogurt than from milk by lactase-deficient
individuals is the most well-established health benefit (6). Yogurt
ingestion leads both to less hydrogen production in the breath hydrogen
test (lactose maldigestion) (Figure 1) and to reduced symptoms (lactose
intolerance) (Marteau, 1990; Lerebours,1989; Kolars, 1984). This effect
is related to the living bacteria, the enzymatic content ( e.g
,§-galactosidase), and the texture of yogurt.
*2. Recovery from diarrhea*
Yogurt reduces the duration of certain types of diarrhea,
especially in children (Niv, 1963; Boudraa, 1990). The World Health
Organization (WHO, 1995) recommends that during treatment of diarrhea,
yogurt should replace milk when available since it is better tolerated
than milk and can help prevent malnutrition or reestablish nutritional
*3. Immunomodulating effects*
Yogurt has been shown to enhance various parameters of the immune
system in invitro models (13) and in mice (14-16). In humans, one study
found an improvement in clinical symptoms of nasal allergy, but no
changes in any parameters tested (17) . A recent report with atopic
subjects found no significant modification of immune system parameters,
showing that there was no aggravation of the immune system caused by
yogurt (18) . Very high concentrations of yogurt bacteria have led to
increases in IFNy, B lymphocytes, and natural killer cells (19) , and
yogurt consumption increased 2í,5í-a synthetase activity (a reflection
of production of IFNy) (20).
*4. Reduction of risk of cancer*
A recent epidemiological study from France showed that people
consuming yogurt had less risk of developing large colorectal adenomas
(21). In addition, the consumption of yogurt in elderly subjects with
atrophic gastritis led to a decrease in the procarcinogenic fecal
enzymes nitroreductase and azoreductase (22). Research in this field is
intriguing, but preliminary.
*5. Blood cholesterol levels*
Mann and Spoerry (23) reported over 20 years ago that Maasai
warriors consumed several liters of FM per day and yet had low serum
cholesterol levels. This observation sparked a series of conflicting
studies on the possible hypocholesterolemic properties of yogurt and
other FM. Results have been inconsistent (24). What is clear is that
regular consumption of yogurt does not increase plasma cholesterol
concentration (24, 25); yogurt can be part of the daily intake of
individuals who are concerned about heart disease.
*Kefir, another traditional fermented milk*
Kefir is a stirred beverage made from milk fermented with a
complex mixture of bacteria (including various species of lactobacilli,
lactococci, leuconostocs, and aceterobacteria) and yeasts (both
lactose-fermenting and non-lactose-fermenting). The small amount of CO2,
alcohol, and aromatic compounds produced by the cultures give it its
characteristic fizzy, acid taste (26). Kefir fabrication differs from
that of yogurt in that kefir grains (small clusters of microorganisms
held together in a polysaccharide matrix) or mother cultures from grains
(27) are added to milk and cause its fermentation. Kefir is actually a
family of products, in that the grains and technology used can vary
significantly and thus result in products with different compositions.
Many health benefits have been traditionally reported. Kefir has
been used for the treatment of atherosclerosis, allergic disease, and
gastrointestinal disorders, among other diseases (28). Until recently,
most research has been limited to studies lacking modern statistical
practices or to reports written up in Slavic languages, rendering them
inaccessible to most western scientists.
Recent studies have investigated antibacterial (29),
immunological(30), antitumoral (31), and hypocholesterolemic(32) effects
of kefir consumption on animals. Results suggest potential benefits.
Fresh, but not heat-treated grains in kefir enhanced intestinal lactose
digestion in minipigs (33). While awaiting more research, it is
important to remember that kefir, like yogurt, has been and continues to
be a part of the regular diet in central and eastern Europe for
centuries. Bifidobacterium: a natural inhabitant of the intestines
Bifidobacteria were first described in 1900 by Tissier (34) . Since that
time, their classification has evolved continually, and currently
includes around thirty species (35, 36) . In general, they are strictly
anaerobic, Gram-positive rods which often have special nutritional needs
and grow slowly in milk. Very few strains are adapted well enough to
milk that they both grow in sufficient numbers and survive well
throughout the shelf-life of the FM.
Although bifidobacteria produce both lactic acid and acetic acid
as major end-products of metabolism (heterofermentative), many
microbiologists consider them to be lactic acid bacteria, albeit a
special case. Tissierís hypothesis almost 100 years ago that
bifidobacteria might have health benefits(37) was based on the following
observations. Bifidobacteria are normal inhabitants of the human
intestinal tract throughout the life cycle, beginning just days after
birth. Further, they are often the predominant microorganism in the gut
of breast-fed infants. It has since been shown that breast-fed babies
are less at risk for diarrheal disease than formula-fed infants (38).
In addition to the above inherent characteristics of bifidobacteria,
some strains of the micro-organism survive intestinal transit in
sufficient numbers to exert a metabolic effect in the gut (39,40).
*1. Effects on the intestinal microflora*
Ingestion of milk fermented with bifidobacteria leads to an
increase in fecal bifidobacteria levels, both in infants (43) and in
adults (44) . Elevated levels return to normal after cessation of
consumption (39). Ingestion of FM with bifidobacteria has also led to a
decrease in §-glucuronidase activity, but not in other enzymes
associated with colon (44).
*2. Effect on mild constipation*
Slow intestinal transit can be partially corrected in women by
the regular consumption of a milk fermented with yogurt cultures and
bifidobacteria (41). This effect was not observed with yogurt as a
control, thus demonstrating the specificity of bifidobacteria for the
increased colonic motility (42).
*3. Prevention of diarrhea*
Few studies have been performed. One double-blind study of
infants demonstrated that a formula with added B. bifidum and S.
thermophilus reduced the incidence of hospital-acquired diarrhea
compared to a standard formula. It also lowered the rate of rotavirus
shedding into the environment (45).
*4. Immunomodulating effects*
Ingestion of milk fermented with B. bifidum led to an increase in
phagocytic activity in peripheral blood compared to milk consumption
(46). A mixture of B. bifidum and L. acidophilus decreased chronic
inflammation of the sigmoid colon and increased humoral immunity in a
group of elderly subjects (47).
*Lactobacillus casei: new interest in an old bacteria*
The group L. casei consists of several species of facultatively
anaerobic and hetero-fermentative, mesophilic lactic acid bacteria(48).
Their metabolism provides organoleptic qualities to several traditional
FM and cheeses, and more recently, to new fermented milks. L. casei have
been detected in the feces of both infants (49) and adults (50). Their
ability to survive transit through the intestinal tract in adequate
numbers to have a physiological effect (50) , coupled with their
potential health benefits make L. casei an ideal candidate for a probiotic.
*1. Treatment of diarrhea*
Several double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials have
demonstrated that oral consumption of L. casei reduces the duration of
diarrhea (51), and in particular, rotavirus gastroenteritis (52) in
children. In addition, L. casei may help reduce the duration of diarrhea
associated with children in day care centers (53), antibiotic treatment
(54) and travelerís diarrhea (55).
*2. Effects on the intestinal microflora*
In addition to increasing lactobacilli count in feces (50), milk
fermented with L. casei has been shown to lower the activity of the
colonic enzymes §-glucuronidase (50, 56), glycocholic acid reductase,
and nitroreductase (56) in healthy adults. A recent study demonstrated a
decrease in §-glucuronidase and §-glucosidase activities in infants
after ingestion of a milk fermented with yogurt cultures and L. casei.
This effect was not found with yogurt alone or with gelled milk
(control) (57) , thus suggesting that the modification was due to L.
casei or to the association between L. casei and yogurt.
*3. Immunomodulating effects*
Challenge tests ( e.g ., using Salmonella typhimurium ) with oral
ingestion of L. casei in mice has led to increased protection in animals
infected with pathogenic bacteria (58, 59). A few reports using human
subjects have shown an enhancement of non-specific immune system
activators, such as y interferon and interleukins (ex vivo) (60) and of
specific immune responses to various challenges, including rotavirus
vaccine (61). In a recent study infants with atopic dermatitis were
given formula with added L. casei. Not only did the concentration of
fecal tumor necrosis factor-a decrease significantly (a measure of the
immune response), but clinical symptoms improved as well (62) .
Viability of the bacteria is an important factor of its effectiveness (61).
In addition to the probiotics discussed above, other bacteria,
some well known and some more recent, offer additional health benefits.
In particular, much research has been conducted on L. acidophilus.
Several studies suggest a hypocholesterolemic effect of L. acidophilus
(63) , while others have investigated its ability to prevent various
types of diarrhea (64) and to reduce the incidence of candidal vaginitis
In addition, consumption of L. acidophilus has led to modifications of
various parameters of the immune system (46), and to a decrease in
several fecal enzymes associated with colon cancer (66). Less well-known
bacteria include Lb. helveticus (67), L. plantarum(68) , and L. reuteri
(69). These lactic acid bacteria have different microbiolog
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