Indonesian kefir grains are potential sources of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that may act as probiotics with specific functional properties. In this study we explored the potential of the probiotic and cholesterol-lowering effect of LAB isolated from Indonesian kefir grains obtained from Bogor, Bandung, Jakarta, and Yogyakarta. The results revealed that 10 isolates showed considerable survivability at low pH and bile salt with total cell reduction of ~3 log colony-forming units per milliliter after exposure to pH 2.5 and 0.5% (w/v) bile salt for 1 and 3 h, respectively. All strains exhibited strong antimicrobial activities against pathogenic bacteria and were sensitive to a wide spectrum of antibiotics but exhibited weak bile salt hydrolase activity. Identification based on 16S RNA suggested that nine isolates were Lactobacillus kefiri and one was Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The ability of the isolates to reduce cholesterol from the media varied, ranging from 22.08% to 68.75% with the highest reduction shown by L. kefiri JK17. The ability to remove cholesterol from the media decreased greatly in resting and dead cells, ranging from 14.58% to 22.08% in resting cells and from 7.89% to 18.17% in dead cells. It can be concluded that Indonesian kefir grains contain LAB potentially acting as probiotics capable of reducing cholesterol. The cholesterol-lowering effect especially occurs when the cells are metabolically active.
Keywords: Cholesterol; Lactobacillus; kefir grains; lactic acid bacteria; probiotics.