Sunday July 23rd 2017

Metagenomics for foodies

kefirKefir is a viscous, sour-tasting, slightly alcoholic, milk-based beverage that’s been consumed for centuries. It’s made by adding a starter mix of bacteria and yeast – called the kefir “grain” – to pasteurized cow milk, though brewers have reported success with milk from goats, sheep, buffalo, and soy. As fermented dairy products go, it still lags behind yogurt and cheese in popularity, but in recent years kefir has enjoyed a surge in global sales.

That rise may be due, in part, to its reputed health benefits. For more than 100 years, scientists have suspected that the bacteria in fermented dairy products can improve intestinal health. More recently, articles and some studies have reported a wide spectrum of positive attributes — that it helps lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, reduce inflammation, and treat ulcerative colitis. Paul Cotter, a microbiologist at the Teagasc Food Research Centre in Cork, Ireland, has been studying kefir for several years. He says those broad claims haven’t been rigorously tested.

“When you claim something has compounds that can do everything, it becomes suspicious,” says Cotter. “Kefir’s benefits haven’t really been studied in a scientifically rigorous manner.” Most of the studies behind kefir’s extraordinary health claims derived from experiments on cell lines or animal models.

 

Read more at Metagenomics for Foodies, published by the the American Society for Microbiology. Image credit: ASM

 

More from category

What medicine can learn from squid teeth
What medicine can learn from squid teeth

Many types of squid have razor-sharp teeth. They just are not where you’d expect to find them. Each of the [Read More]

Let the structural symphony begin
Let the structural symphony begin

Like other structural biologists, Eva Nogales works in extraordinary times. The University of California, Berkeley, [Read More]

Inside the lost cave world of the Amazon’s tepui mountains
Inside the lost cave world of the Amazon’s tepui mountains

They are vast towers rising out of the jungles of the Amazon basin. Tepuis, rocky tabletop mountains isolated by [Read More]

The Power of 1
The Power of 1

Kent Haffer remembers when his oncologist approached him with an unusual idea. It was 2013, and Haffer, a 55-year-old [Read More]

Archives