Kefir is a complex fermented dairy product created through the symbiotic fermentation of milk by lactic acid bacteria and yeasts contained within an exopolysaccharide and protein complex called a kefir grain. As with other fermented dairy products, kefir has been associated with a range of health benefits such as cholesterol metabolism and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition, antimicrobial activity, tumor suppression, increased speed of wound healing, and modulation of the immune system including the alleviation of allergy and asthma. These reports have led to increased interest in kefir as a focus of research and as a potential probiotic-containing product. Here, we review those studies with a particular emphasis on the microbial composition and the health benefits of the product, as well as discussing the further development of kefir as an important probiotic product.
Keywords: fermented foods; gut microbiota; immunomodulation; kefir; metabolic diseases.