Kefir is a natural complex fermented milk product containing more than 50 species of probiotic bacteria and yeast, and has been demonstrated to have multiple properties conferring health benefits, including antiobesity, anti-hepatic steatosis, antioxidative, antiallergenic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, constipation-alleviating, and antimicrobial properties. To better understand the underlying mechanisms of these benefits, we here review research on the effect of kefir (and kefir microorganisms) consumption to modulate the host gut microbiota. Owing to its excellent gastrointestinal resistance and colonization ability and wide ranges of microbial interaction, kefir has shown significant and wide-spectrum modulatory effects on the host gut microbiota. In particular, as a bacteria- and yeast-containing food, kefir can modulate both the gut microbiota and mycobiota. Since the association of this modulation with health benefit has only been addressed in a small number of recent studies thus far, further studies are needed to determine the precise mechanisms of the beneficial effects of kefir in relation to the modulation of the gut microbiota and mycobiota. Gaining this insight will surely help to take full advantage of this unique probiotic food.
Keywords: Kefir; gut microbiota; gut mycobiota; lactic acid bacteria; next generation sequencing; probiotics; yeast.