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clustered.jpg (17698 bytes)          THE CAUCASUS KEFIR
                                     Dr. Lee Lorenzen, Biochemist

In 1908, Metchnikov wrote in his book, "The Prolongation of Life" that the secret to longevity that he found in the Russian mountains was the yogurt that the people were making and eating.

The villagers of Caucasus mountains gave us yogurt.  But this part of the world is also the origin of fermented milk product that may be good for your health called Kefir. The history of Kefir is centuries old.  It is mentioned in the Koran and is very well known in Eastern Europe.  

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) have been used to ferment foods for at least 4000 years.   Without understanding the scientific basis, people used LAB and kefirs (bacteria and yeast complexes) to produce cultured foods with improved preservation and with different characteristic flavors and textures from the original food.  A wide variety of foods including sausage, ham, wine, cider, beer, sauerkraut, olives, and pickles contain LAB and other GRAS ("Generally Recognized As Safe") microorganisms.  LAB are used for many fermented milk products from all over the world as well, including yogurt, cheese, butter, buttermilk, kefir, and kourniss.   Although kefir is just being discovered in some areas of the world, it has been very popular in Europe and the Middle East.  In the former Soviet Union, kefir accounts for 70% of the total amount of fermented milk consumed.  It is also well known in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Greece, Austria, Brazil, and Israel.

Like yogurt, kefir is milk based.  The process to make kefir involves fermenting milk with what are called kefir grains.  The grains are a mass of safe bacteria, yeast and polysaccharide (complex sugars).  The grains are a living growing mass that have been the subject of much study to define exactly what makes up the grains.   Origin, storage, temperature, growth, media (what you feed the kefir to make it grow) and handling all influence the make up of the grains.

The polysaccharide that makes up the mass of the kefir grain has been shown to be unique and has been given the name kefiran.  The fermentation process takes about twenty four hours, during which the grains change milk into a sour tasting drink.   Many years of consumption in these countries have demonstrated that the microorganisms in kefir are not pathogenic or disease causing.  Kefir is actually a preventative.  It processes antimicrobial activity against a wide variety of gram positive and gram negative bacteria and against some fungi.  In a recent study by Zacconi, the antagonistic effects of kefir against Salmonella was attributed to the complexity and vitality of the unique microflora found in this complex.

The folklore of Kefir enjoys a rich tradition of health claims.  In the former Soviet Union, it is used in hospitals and Santeria for a variety of conditions, including metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis, and allergic disease.  It has even been used for the treatment of tuberculosis, abnormal cell growth, high cholesterol levels, gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease and allergy.  The mild acid taste and its characteristic microflora facilitate salivation, enzyme secretion in the stomach and pancreas and improved peristalsis.   Kefir contributes to more even movement of food in the intestine and the presence of lactic acid, acetic acid and antibiotic substances inhibit decomposition processes in the small intestine.

Its consumption has also been associated with longevity in Caucasus Mountains where the drink was fermented naturally in bags made of animal hides.  For additional information, read the research of Dr. Kornai.

This is from the folklore of the region and we make no claims as to the effectiveness of our kefir to treat or control disease.  It is, however, a very healthy drink which can help control bad bacteria and yeasts in the digestive tract.

Our Caucasus Kefir was brought to us by a Christian missionary in 1983.  We have kept this complex alive since that time and have studied the many. microorganisms it contains, including Saccharomyces boulardii, a now well known yeast which is antagonistic to Candida albicans and pathogenic bacteria which cause severe gastrointestinal upset for the travelers.  After years of work we were able to stabilize and freeze dry the complex so that it could be encapsulated and shipped to those in need. 

For thousands of years, the villagers in the Caucasus mountains had never allowed their precious complex to be used outside their area, but the missionary (who was originally born and raised in the village), convinced them that this discovery was too important to be used by only a few people.  We are honored that the people of the Caucasus have shared their unique development with us.



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Disclaimer: Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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