Want to live longer? Drink Kefir!

  • 2010-06-17
  • Compiled by TBT Staff.

Over the past few years, dairy products that contain lactic acid and bifidobacteria have become incredibly popular. Currently, they are considered the basis of a human’s healthy nutrition, contributing to good health, preventing some diseases and increasing life span. So what makes them so useful?

Dairy products are produced from whole cow milk (as well as sheep, goat, mare and other animal milk) or its derivatives (cream, skim milk and whey) by means of fermentation. The main technological feature of their production is the fermentation with the use of cultures of lactic acid bacteria or yeast (leaven or fermentation). Milk is often pre-pasteurized or boiled before the production of fermented milk products to avoid the possibility of survival of harmful microorganisms.
As a result of these processes the consistence, taste and smell of the finished products are formed. Dairy products can be divided into two groups based on the nature of fermentation of lactose. The first group includes products, the manufacturing of which is mainly based on lactic fermentation: sour milk, acidophilic milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream.

In the second group - the products, the making of which is based on lactic and alcoholic fermentation: kefir, koumiss etc. The diversity of the latter is very large: sour clotted milk and fermented boiled milk - in Russia, caucasian milk - in Georgia, katyk - in Central Asia, kurung - in north-east Asia, airan and kefir - in the Northern Caucasus, koumiss - in Kazakhstan, ryazhenka - in Ukraine, leben - in Egypt, yogurt in Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Greece, cellar milk - in Norway, etc.
Also, dairy products are often enriched with different probiotic cultures. The most well-known example is the bifidok, which differs from kefir because of added bifidobacteria.

Dairy products – the basis of healthy nutrition

If milk is a simple kind of food, then dairy products are a special kind of food, which is a healing tool.  During one hour, 32% of consumed milk can be digested, whereas dairy products can be digested almost completely within the same period of time. Lactic acid bacteria convert the main milk protein – casein – into shorter peptides and amino acids, which are easier to digest and less allergenic for humans. Lactobacilli produce lactase - an enzyme that helps the assimilation of lactose. Dairy products that contain lactase are generally well tolerated, heal the intestines and are a popular “medicinal product” against diarrhea.

Dairy products are food for growth. They are an excellent source of essential building materials for the body - protein and calcium that are easily digested. It is extremely important that the calcium in dairy products is in an optimum ratio with phosphorus and other macro-and micronutrients. Lack of calcium in the diet leads to serious disorders: growth delay in children,  disorders in the formation of bones and teeth, tooth decay, increased bleeding of vessels, increased nervous excitability, disturbances of the heart, increased blood pressure, etc.

Insufficient intake of calcium from food during pregnancy, when calcium is actively deposited from the mother’s body into the forming fetal bone tissue, creates a risk for osteoporosis, i.e., reduction of bone density and the resulting fractures.
However, the main advantage of dairy products is that they are “alive food.” Lactic acid and bifidobacteria contained in them inhibit the growth and development of pathogenic and putrefactive micro-organisms that inhabit the intestines and poison the body with products of rotting and fermentation (phenol, indole, skatole, ammonia, etc.). Because of this, the intestine is unable to perform one of its main functions - a barrier against harmful microbes and toxic substances. The gradual poisoning of the organism disrupts the liver and kidneys, contributes to premature aging and the development of age-related diseases.

Dairy products restore the normal intestinal microflora in cases of dysbiosis and dysbacteriosis, facilitating the normalization of biochemical reactions and physiological functions. At the same time, they provide the body with essential nutrients and beneficial biologically active metabolic products of lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria (vitamins, amino acids, peptides, substances similar to antibiotics).

Dairy products stimulate the immune system, increase the resistance of the body against infections, and have an antiallergenic effect, especially in children with allergic diseases and food intolerance. Pediatricians recommend dairy products to children who suffer from various forms of indigestion.

It is useful to eat dairy products when taking antibiotics, because they minimize the harmful effects on beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Now it has been proved that the consumption of dairy products protects the intestine against infectious and inflammatory diseases, is a preventive means against constipation, colitis, provides detoxification in case of poisoning by heavy metals, reduces the incidence of cancer of the colon and rectal cancer and lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood.