Kefir may support heart health: Brazil study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / dulezidar
© Getty Images / dulezidar
Consuming kefir may help lower blood pressure and improve cardiac function, suggests a new study with hypertensive lab rats.

Data published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry​ indicated that consumption of milk fermented by the grains of kefir improved in blood pressure, reduced enlargement of the heart muscle (cardiac hypertrophy), and improved calcium-handling proteins, important mediators of cardiac contractile function.

The study was performed in spontaneously hypertensive rats and would therefore need to be repeated in humans.

“These findings suggest that kefir has beneficial effects on hypertension and might be used as a coadjutant to alleviate hypertension,” ​wrote researchers from the University Vila Velha and the Federal University of Espírito Santo in Brazil.

Kefir in Brazil

Global demand for kefir is booming, with data from Innova Marketing showing that global kefir product launches nearly tripled over the past five years, with 140 products launched globally over the past 12 months.

In Brazil, interest in kefir is definitely on the rise, where much of the kefir is prepared at home on a daily basis, with Kefir grains primarily obtained through donation, like a “probiotic chain”.

DuPont recently launched a kefir culture line, based on real freeze-dried kefir grains to help industrialize the category.

Study details

Building on their earlier work (Klippel et al., 2016, Front Physiol​, Vol. 7, pp. 211), which reported significant improvements in mean arterial pressure (MAP) and heart rate (HR) and cardiac hypertrophy, the researchers sought to identify the possible mechanisms of action.

Spontaneously hypertensive rats had their diets supplemented with milk fermented by the grains of kefir or whole milk.  

The researchers again found improvements in MAP and HR for the kefir-fed animals. They also found that cardiac hypertrophy was ameliorated and beneficial changes were observed in a number of contractile proteins.

Hemodynamic measures were also improved as a result of kefir consumption, they said.

“Altogether, the data show that long-term kefir treatment reduced blood pressure by mechanisms involving reduction of cardiac hypertrophy, improvement of cardiac contractility and calcium-handling proteins, and reduction in the CNS regulation of the sympathetic activity,” ​they concluded.

Source: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Volume 66, April 2019, Pages 79-85, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2019.01.006
“Long-term treatment with kefir probiotics ameliorates cardiac function in spontaneously hypertensive rats”
Authors: M.A. Silva-Cutini et al.

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