Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins

, Volume 6, Issue 3–4, pp 123–135 | Cite as

Kefir: A Multifaceted Fermented Dairy Product

  • Barbara Nielsen
  • G. Candan Gürakan
  • Gülhan ÜnlüEmail author


Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage produced by the actions of the microflora encased in the “kefir grain” on the carbohydrates in the milk. Containing many bacterial species already known for their probiotic properties, it has long been popular in Eastern Europe for its purported health benefits, where it is routinely administered to patients in hospitals and recommended for infants and the infirm. It is beginning to gain a foothold in the USA as a healthy probiotic beverage, mostly as an artisanal beverage, home fermented from shared grains, but also recently as a commercial product commanding shelf space in retail establishments. This is similar to the status of yogurts in the 1970s when yogurt was the new healthy product. Scientific studies into these reported benefits are being conducted into these health benefits, many with promising results, though not all of the studies have been conclusive. Our review provides an overview of kefir’s structure, microbial profile, production, and probiotic properties. Our review also discusses alternative uses of kefir, kefir grains, and kefiran (the soluble polysaccharide produced by the organisms in kefir grains). Their utility in wound therapy, food additives, leavening agents, and other non-beverage uses is being studied with promising results.


Kefir Kefir grain Kefiran Probiotic Lactic acid bacteria Fermented dairy product 



Gülhan Ünlü thanks (1) J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board; (2) Institute of International Education—Council for International Exchange of Scholars (IIE-CIES); and (3) Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchange between the USA and Turkey for their generous support of her work as a Fulbright Scholar (2012–2013) at Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Nielsen
    • 1
  • G. Candan Gürakan
    • 2
  • Gülhan Ünlü
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Food ScienceUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  2. 2.Department of Food EngineeringMiddle East Technical University, Üniversiteler Mah.Çankaya, AnkaraTurkey

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