Presently, the complete mechanism involved in the construction, or the synthesis of kefir grains, is not well understood at a scientific level. However, there appears to be increasing interest in this area. A unique soluble, slimy gel-polysaccharide [PS] which was discovered in milk kefir-grains by La Rivière JW et al  was given the name Kefiran [KGF-C].[1a] Cultured in fresh dairy milk, the PS is synthesized by organisms fixed in the centre of the grain. There, anaerobic conditions [no freely available oxygen] is favourable for kefiran synthesis and in the presence of ethanol alcohol.
More specifically, kefiran is synthesized by encapsulated homo-fermentative lactobacilli species Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefirgranum subsp. nov and Lb. kefiri [previously classified as Lb. brevis], and possibly other strains produce kefiran or similar PS. By weight, freeze-dry kefir grains consist of some 45% kefiran.
The PS is composed of two mono-saccharides or single sugars; D-glucose and D-galactose in almost equal proportion. The adhesive property of kefiran is what holds together the protein, amino acids, fats, and the microfloral complex as a stable biological mass.
On a scientific basis, the molecular structure of kefiran is not well understood, proposed to be a branched hexa- or hepta-saccharide repeating unit. In itself, the unit is composed of a regular pentasaccharide, to which one or two sugar residues are randomly linked. The variety of linkage-types of the molecule may be the reason why kefiran is resistant to enzymic attack[2a] [Kefiran appears to be reasonably resistent to digestive enzymes and gastric digestion]. This property might be important in the ecological stability of the grain, and therapeutic activity of kefiran, due to the PS remaining reasonably chemically stable through the process of fermentation and gastric digestion.
Chair form diagram of the proposed molecular structure of kefiran [2a]
There are other strains of Lactobacilli species capable of synthesizing a similar polysaccharide, Lb. sp. KPB-167B being one such organism. This, including other species of Lactobacilli which produce either kefiran or a similar type of PS [having slight variation between glucose and galactose ratio, different molecular weights including variation in the optical rotation of the molecule] produced at variable rates, or, the amount of the PS, may be crucial mechanism[s] involved in the natural tendency for each grain to form as an enclosed, multi-lobular body, the mid-section or centre of which holds a large portion of PS. This is possibly due to the layout of different strains, or type-strains of encapsulated organisms and yeasts, arranged at specific locations as layers or branched among the matrix. Stress factors caused by culture-conditions or the structural makeup of the matrix itself, or how and where the encapsulated organisms are located may incur the same strain of encapsulated organism to produce either variable amounts of kefiran, or a molecular variation of the PS.
Experiments performed with mice [against mice really-- think about it!], revealed kefiran exhibited anti-tumour activity. In these experiments, orally administered kefiran reduced the size of certain types of malignant tumours, by inducing a specific immune response in mice. Much of this earlier research was performed in Japan.[3-6]
More recent research evaluated kefir grains induced a systemic anti-inflammatory response in kefir-grain fed rats. The author [Dominic Anfiteatro] initially discovered the anti-inflammatory property of milk kefir-grains, through the implementation of rectal injections [implants] and retention including the ingestion of an adequate amount of kefir grains to successfully correct Ulcerative Colitis in his case . The anti-inflammatory effect was later investigated and correlated scientifically [Prof. Schneedorf JM. et. al. 2003]. The author has published a web page explaining the protocol implemented to correct Ulcerative Colitis in his case, including other individuals over some years, here.
More recently, the author observed another discovery. The ingestion of 1/3 cup of milk kefir-grains daily over a period of 7 days, gave significant benefit to 3 individual cases [one being the author]. The 3 individuals were experiencing pain associated with Repetitive Strain Injury [RSI] along the right arm and upper right shoulder. The cause was concluded to be due to overuse of a computer keyboard and mouse-clicking over some 3 years. These findings further confirms the systemic anti-inflammatory property of kefiran derived directly from ingesting kefir grains. Quite possibly kefiran activity in conjunction with the microflora complex of the grain, encourage a systemic benefitial response via multiple components or vehicles, rather than through the action of a single pharmacological-active component.
A study on the effects of kefiran in laboratory rats showed kefiran can significantly suppress increased blood pressure and also reduce serum cholesterol levels in SHRSP/Hos rats, when subjects consumed excessive dietary cholesterol. The study also explains kefiran supplementation had the ability to significantly lower blood glucose in KKAy mice. In addition, the administration of kefiran in constipated SD rats caused an obvious improvement in the levels of faecal moisture content and wet weight of faeces. Obviously the latter is useful for correcting constipation.
A recent study in China found kefir extracts have a preventive effect against human breast cancer cells, without effecting healthy human breast cells. The consumption of kefir modulates the immune response, implying that kefir contains bio-active bacteria and compounds that enhance communication in the body's immune system.[8a]
Similar research in Japan found that kefiran-fed rats had a serum cholesterol lowering effect in 2 rat models 1, loaded with cholesterol and 2, given orotic acid. Kefiran accelerated sterol excretion and protected hepatic injuries (glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase [GOT], glutamic pyruvic transaminase [GPT]) in both rat models. It was also discovered that histamine excretion decreased in the caecum content and faeces, suggesting that kefiran has various preventative functions, the mechanisms of which are not well understood.
Other research found that kefir stimulated body cells to produce 14 times more Interferon-beta, a vital glycoprotein excreted by body cells to combat viral infection, and possibly combat cancer cells. The active substance in kefir in this case, which other fermented milk contain, was found to be sphingomyelin [SpM]. [8b] However, interferon-beta stimulation by SpM in other culture milk-products including yogurt only increased body cell to secrete 2 to 3 times more than normal activity.
Over the past 10 years, the author has received multitudes of testimonies by email and through his internet lists from individuals of all corners of the globe, expressing their gratitude because kefir has markedly help to improve their health and general well being. Kefir has helped with many different conditions. Recently, a local individual shared with a friend a suggestion I explained to her, which is also included in my book. After her friend followed through with rectally injected and retained kefir grain implants, she experience a sure cure from the medical condition, Celiac [gluten intolerance]. This positive feedback is quite encouraging to state the least. We are observing long term effect of this recent outcome.
The combination of all the above, suggests that kefiran, and in fact kefir grains and kefir are useful as functional food to prevent or control common occurring diseases of the modern age. This further reinforces what the author has suggested for many years, that the regular ingestion of kefir grains, should be considered of greater, practical importance and especially appreciated by individuals preparing traditional kefir for themselves at home, school or their place of work [and why not make kefir at school or at work?!].
As an end note, kefiran is also useful as a natural gelling agent, for thickening food. The author explains many examples for the possible use of kefir grain kefiran in the preparation of wonderful textured baked goods such as wholemeal sourdough bread, cakes, pretzels and pastry. For ice-cream making, for thickening yogurt and more. This extends to the use of kefir grains or kefiran in the preparation of natural cosmetics, for skin care products such as moisturizers, and skin conditioners or toners etc.
There misleading information regarding to kefir and kefir grains on the internet. One example, the separation of kefir-whey through fermentation of milk with kefir grains to produce traditional kefir. An individual is suggesting that the clear liquid is solely kefiran released from kefir grains in milk. This information is incorrect. The pale yellow or straw coloured clear liquid is simply whey, or kefir-whey in the case with kefir. Although kefir-whey does contain a very small percentalge of kefiran, because the PS is water soluble, but by no means is the liquid portion pure kefiran. The process of fermentation of milk, creates an acidic environment, which separates [precipitates] the milk protein [casein or curd] in solution, creating a mixture of a thick, white mass of curds among a pale yellow solution -- kefir-whey, which shouldn't be mistaken for pure kefiran.
Links to My Other Web Pages
About Milk Kefir + Water Kefir | Making Milk Kefir & Water Kefir + Recipes with Kefir | Cheese Making, Sourdough Pizza + Bread made with Kefir
Kefirkraut + Culturing Vegetables with Kefir Grains | Preserving Food with Kefir | Nutritional and Chemical Composition of Milk Kefir | Kefir FAQs
Seed, Nut + Soy Milk Recipes + Kefir & Viili made from these + Rejuvelac | Nutritional Value of Different Fresh Milk-Types | Culture-Foods of Asia
Kombucha & Vinegar Making | Cooking Tip for Better Tasting Food & Healthier Herbal Tea | Beeswax Lined Utensils for Safer Brewing
Dom's ToothSaving Paste | Cod Liver Oil Therapy for Common Ailments | How I Correctly Treated Ulcerative Colitis with Kefir Grains
Angelica's Story | Sandra & Dom's Art and Handcraft Work | My Music + About the Hammond Organ + Leslie Speaker Cabinet
About This Site & I
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Updated July 29, 2010
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