Imagine there’s a natural elixir that lowers cholesterol, keeps blood pressure in check and may even help to control blood sugar levels. Well, a new study suggests that kefir, a drink made from cultured milk, may help our cardiovascular health in just those ways.
While kefir may seem like an exotic drink to many Americans, it’s been popular in Eastern Europe for generations and has been gaining favor here too, especially when it comes to bolstering probiotic health.
Kefir is similar to yogurt, but there are differences: while yogurt is creamy, kefir is a liquid. And while yogurt is the fermentation of bacteria, kefir is a combination of bacteria and yeast fermentations. This combination is called “kefir grain.” Though there’s no gluten it because it’s not like grain in wheat. The taste? Unsweetened, kefir is tart and tangy, like plain yogurt, and might also seem a bit carbonated because of the fermentation process. Most often, however, it is blended with fruit and sweetened just as yogurts are, making it resemble a drinkable form of yogurt.
Those participants who drank kefir showed a decrease in blood pressure, lower fasting blood sugar and decreased levels of low-density lipoproteins or LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
According to the American Heart Association, over 34 percent of Americans have the condition. Signs of metabolic syndrome include:
- carrying extra weight around your waist (at least 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men);
- high triglyceride levels;
- reduced levels of HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol;
- high blood pressure;
- elevated fasting sugar.
The patients with metabolic syndrome were divided into two groups of twenty-four. Over the course of 12 weeks, one group drank kefir every day, while the control group drank a placebo. Neither group was aware of which liquid they were drinking.
The results were promising. Those participants who drank kefir showed a decrease in blood pressure, lower fasting blood sugar and decreased levels of low-density lipoproteins or LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
This isn’t the first look at kefir’s heart healthy benefits. In 2019 researchers studied kefir’s effect on rats and concluded that the yogurt-like liquid helped to strengthen the rodent’s heart’s blood-pumping action. In addition, there are several studies supporting kefir’s probiotic benefits.
“Kefir” comes from the Turkish word keyif which refers to the “good feeling” a person experiences when they sip the stuff. Some of that good feeling may extend to our hearts.
The study is published in PharmaNutrition.