Effects of kefir or milk supplementation on zonulin in overweight subjects

J Dairy Sci. 2020 May;103(5):3961-3970. doi: 10.3168/jds.2019-17696. Epub 2020 Mar 12.


Increased intestinal permeability has been shown to be involved in several diseases associated with low-grade chronic inflammation, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. In the last decade, growing evidence shows the beneficial effects of probiotic-containing food supplementation on these conditions. In this crossover intervention study on 28 asymptomatic overweight adults, we tested the effects of a 3-wk kefir supplementation compared with a 3-wk milk supplementation on serum zonulin levels. The effects on serum glucose, triacylglycerols, low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, total cholesterol, markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein and adiponectin), anthropometric variables, mood, and appetite were also determined. Kefir supplementation resulted in a greater improvement of serum zonulin levels (F = 6.812, η2 = 0.275), whereas a significant yet similar improvement in lipid profile and serum glucose levels was found in both supplementations. Positive mood was slightly but significantly enhanced with kefir supplementation, and reduced with milk supplementation. The C-reactive protein, adiponectin, and appetite were unaffected. In conclusion, supplementation with both dairy products had health beneficial effects, but only kefir showed an effect on the intestinal barrier dysfunction marker.

Keywords: intestinal permeability; kefir; low-grade chronic inflammation; overweight.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Haptoglobins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Kefir*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk* / metabolism
  • Overweight / blood
  • Overweight / metabolism*
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Haptoglobins
  • Protein Precursors
  • Triglycerides
  • zonulin