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Does kefir promote health?

Kefir is a dairy beverage produced when kefir grain is added to milk to initiate a natural fermentation. The grains are known to contain a vast range of beneficial microbes, and APC has published some new insights into their health promoting properties ( ).

Lead researcher, Aaron Walsh, working with Paul Cotter in Teagasc Food Research Centre, determined how specific microbial populations dominate during different stages of the fermentation process. He also found that the flavour of the fermented milk (either vinegar, buttery or fruity), is dictated by the genes residing within these dominant populations and was able to change the flavour by altering the ratios of the microbes.  DNA-based analyses revealed the presence of genes considered important for probiotic traits and may explain the long held view that kefir has health-promoting properties.

Many traditional fermented foods which have been reported to have health benefits are produced on a small–scale artisanal basis.  Aaron’s results could be used to help optimise fermentation processes, flavours and health-related attributes of kefir and other fermented foods, bringing them to a wider consumer audience.

Photo (left to right) Dr Fiona Crispie, Aaron Walsh and Dr Paul Cotter, Teagasc Food Research Centre Moorepark and APC Microbiome Institute