"The purpose of this review has been to collate and summarize that which is known about the microbial composition of kefir and how this composition plays a role in the health benefits associated with kefir consumption. Kefir is a dynamic fermented dairy product with many different factors affecting the benefits associated with its consumption. These factors include the variable yeast and bacterial species present, as well as metabolites such as kefiran and other exopolysaccharides. While kefir has been associated with health benefits for 100s of years, the exact form of these benefits has, until recently, not been studied. The use of animal models and other in vitro analyses has allowed for the elucidation of how kefir positively impacts host health. Whole kefir, as well as specific fractions and individual organisms isolated from kefir, provide a multitude of positive effects when consumed. These range from improved cholesterol metabolism and wound healing, to the modulation of the immune system and microbiome, and even the potential alleviation of allergies and cancers. Further studies into the mechanisms behind these effects will allow scientists to better understand exactly how kefir and other fermented dairy products confer these benefits as well as how to harness these traits outside of kefir itself.
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Prof. Atanas G. Atanasov (Dr. habil., PhD)