Bioactive Compounds from Kefir and Their Potential Benefits on Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2021 Oct 27:2021:9081738. doi: 10.1155/2021/9081738. eCollection 2021.


Despite evidence of health benefits from kefir administration, a systematic review with meta-analysis on bioactive compounds associated with these benefits is still absent in the literature. Kefir is fermented milk resulting from the metabolism of a complex microbiota in symbiosis. Recent researches have investigated the bioactive compounds responsible for the preventive and therapeutic effects attributed to kefir. However, differences in functional potential between industrial and artisanal kefir are still controversial. Firstly, we identified differences in the microbial composition among both types of kefir. Available evidence concerning the action of different bioactive compounds from kefir on health, both from in vitro and in vivo studies, was subsequently summarized to draw a primary conclusion of the dose and the intervention time for effect, the producer microorganisms, the precursor in the milk, and the action mechanism. Meta-analysis was performed to investigate the statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) between intervention and control and between both types of kefir for each health effect studied. In summary, the bioactive compounds more commonly reported were exopolysaccharides, including kefiran, bioactive peptides, and organic acids, especially lactic acid. Kefir bioactive compounds presented antimicrobial, anticancer, and immune-modulatory activities corroborated by the meta-analysis. However, clinical evidence is urgently needed to strengthen the practical applicability of these bioactive compounds. The mechanisms of their action were diverse, indicating that they can act by different signaling pathways. Still, industrial and artisanal kefir may differ regarding functional potential-OR of 8.56 (95% CI: 2.27-32.21, P ≤ .001)-according to the observed health effect, which can be associated with differences in the microbial composition between both types of kefir.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Kefir*
  • Milk / chemistry*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biological Products
  • Immunomodulating Agents