Kefiran is a unique soluable polysaccharide (PS) first discovered in milk kefir grains by La riviere JW et al . When cultured in milk, the PS is produced at the center of the grain where anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions exists. By weight, freeze-dry kefir grains consist of some 45% kefiran. The PS is composed of two mono-saccharides - D-glucose and D-galactose in almost equal proportion.
Experiments done on mice revealed that kefiran exhibited anti-tumour properties. In these experiments, Kefiran was orally administered and was found to reduce the size of certain tumours, by inducing a specific immune response in mice. Much of this early research was performed in Japan.[3-6]
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 taken daily over 7 days, benefited 3 cases [one being the author] where the individuals suffered from pain associated with Repetitive Strain Injury [RSI] along the outer right arm and upper right shoulder area. The cause was due to excessive use of a computer keyboard and mouse-clicking over some years. These latter findings further suggest the systemic anti-inflammatory property of kefir-grain kefiran. Quite possibly kefiran activity in conjunction with organisms of the grain, encourage a systemic benefit via multiple components or vehicles, rather than the action of a single 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. The latter is obviously 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 yet 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 how kefir has markedly help to improve their health and 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 previous medical condition of Celiac Disease [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.