When doing a search for kefir flora I found this low carb forum where there seem to be some interest in kefir. I therefore figured I could contribute a bit while passing by:
Other links that may be of any interest is (3 last ones are about water kefir/tibi grains):
Kefir vs yogurt:
Kefir for health and beauty:
Where to get kefir grains:
And here you find info about both lacto-fermented foods, kefir included along with paleo and low carb info...it's my own forum, not updated for a long time, but useful links anyway (links only):
Also, I include some info written by me on another low carb board. Perhaps this can be useful for some and answer a few questions and/or stimulate further investigation:
"You may want to consider that true kefir is full of lactic acid and enzymes among other things, which help you digest your food. Also, the lactic acid bacterias secrete enzymes in your intestines which also do help in digesting the food, which means you get a double benefit from ingesting kefir.
Lactic acid function like stomach acid and can digest food for you. However, if you have to much stomach acid the lactic acid will regulate your stomachs secretions so that the acid balance will get back to normal. According to science lactic acid both protect you from cancer along with healing any kind of cancer once it has appeared. Along with bioflavonoids (which acts in different ways but gives the same final results in cancer) lactic acid is one of the two (so far as known by science)natural substances that actually regenerates the cancer cells back to normal by forcing them to respirate. If this is of any interest you may want to check out any book or written material by the german scientist Johannes Kuhl.
All the nutrients in kefir is btw predigested and therefore more easily digested than regular food.
It is btw not true that kefir contains 4 grams of carbs. This whole idea came from a doc believing that a certain amount of kefir would be the same as the same amount of yogurt, which is not true (not sure about commercial kefir) since kefir also includes several lactose digesting yeasts along with a lot more lactic acid bacterias than yogurt which digest lactose. It is simply not possible for kefir to act like yogurt since there are such a complete difference between their microflora. As an example consider that 500 ml of yogurt contains about 1.5 trillion lactic acid bacteria whereas the same amount of kefir (500 ml) will contain about 5 trillion lactic acid bacterias or more along with the yeasts and the acetic acid bacterias. If you would like to investigate this for yourself you find the info via the links I posted in my first post.
I know very well that the idea that kefir contains 4 grams of carbs can be found all over the net, but all this misinformation can be traced back to the doc in the source material. I think it was related to a diet called the Go diet.
Another thing most people seem to forget when counting carbs in kefir is that the kefir is in a state of constant flux; it continue to ferment even if you refrigerate it. Thinking about that the fermentation process is the bacterias and yeasts digesting lactose it's logical that a kefir that has fermented for say only 12 hours must still include more lactose/carbs than a kefir that has fermented for 24 or more hours. So, the carb content differs widely until no more lactose is left and therefore no carbs are left either.
Another myth found on the net is the idea that lactic acid is converted to glucose by your body. This is only true if you are absolutely starved and have no glucose or glycogen stores left, which triggers several self-defence mechanisms in your body, one being the conversion of lactic acid to glucose by the liver (the others being the conversion of fatty acids and/or some amino acids to glucose, called gluconeogenesis). The conversion of lactic acid to glucose is therefore not something that happens often, and only in extreme conditions, which means ingesting lactic acid has no effects on your carbs/calorie levels in any way.
I believe the origin of the latter myth comes from the research by Dr Johannes Kuhl in that he found that cancer cells create their own lactic acid (cancer cells don't breathe oxygen, the ferment instead) which they can get converted to glucose by creating a direct channel to the liver which then sends the converted lactic acid back to them as glucose. But again, this only happens if the cancer cells don't get glucose from the diet, something which is not likely considering that the average diet is mostly carbs and sugars.
Therefore, the lactic acid in kefir and any other lacto-fermented food or beverage almost never ends up being converted to glucose.
Hopefully this is good news for you low-carbers."
"Lactic Acid is a colorless liquid Alpha-Hydroxy Acid, which is closely related in molecular structure to vitamin C and not fatty acids (which btw can be both free, short and medium chain (like in kefir and fermented milks) fatty acids and not neccessarily long chain fatty acids), that usually occurs as the end result of anaerobic respiration. It is produced as an endogenous product during metabolism, can be consumed directly via the diet via lacto-fermented substances or bee products (honey, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly) and is also utilized topically as a cosmetic product (A-HA acids are used in skin care products, which is one of the reasons why kefir is so good for the skin and hair).
It is involved in a myriad of chemical processes in the body and regulates and control many by itself. Among other things, when it is consumed from food, it works as a prebiotic in that it stimulates growth of the beneficial intestinal flora. It also increases metabolism and thereby fatty acid metabolism (release from fat cells) indirectly since it enhances our intake of oxygen via our respiratory pathways along with increasing the amount of oxygen that goes into the cells of the body as a whole (increasing cell respiration that is which is the exchange of nutrients like carbs, fatty acids, etc and oxygen products) and in particular the brain, liver and kidneys.
Since it is being produced and used on a continuous basis, being rather volatile, it has near zero caloric value so it is next to impossible to determine any caloric content and then set a standard for it.
To my knowledge this has never been done and it's not possible. You can perhaps extrapolate from one of the immediate chemical relatives, like glucose or lactose, but this will only be suggestive and not even close to something that can be used to set a calorific standard.
It is next to impossible to determine any caloric value to volatile substances like these acids. They are produced and used as fuel for several chemical processes, and even when you get them from food they are used very quickly compared to other nutrients.
To say it short, I don't worry about any calorie value from any of these acids and neither from kefir or any fermented milk. Whatever their calorie value they enhance your metabolism so much they burn more than they gives, even though they actually build and repair our bodies at the same time (which means we actually can gain some weight if that's what our body needs even though we will burn and therefore loose fat). Note that the high fatty acid content of true kefir made from whole milk is very beneficial for catalyzing your fatty acid metabolism in that ingesting fatty acids changes the body's metabolic processes from burning sugars to fatty acids...I guess you already know this being a part of the low carb "society". The high protein content of fermented milks and in particular kefir, which has the highest protein values according to several studies, also gives your metabolism a true boost, not to forget the enzymes, lactic acid bacterias, yeasts lactic acid and acetic acid in kefir that add so much to your energy and vitality through all the bodily processes they catalyze, regulate and control.
I forgot btw to add yesterday that the fat content of kefir is not the same as the whole milk from which it is prepared, which sometimes is used to determine kefir's calorie value, because the fatty acids is broken down to free, short and medium chain fatty acids by enzymes produced by the lactic acid bacteria, and these fatty acids have near zero caloric value in that they are so volatile (being produced all the time and used almost immediately).
In short, drinking kefir is a very good addon to any low carb program. Very strong and sturdy people like the mongols, tartars and the caucasians often drink as much as 20 litres of kefir or fermented milks a day along with eating a lot of meat and/or fish if avaiable. Obesity and owerweigth is very rare in people like these."
"It is not logical that an ongoing fermentation process which splits the fatty acid chains to smaller units that are used a lot faster than fatty acids with longer chains which also take a lot more time to get digested have the same amount of calories as the fat content of the original milk. Since so much of kefir's pre-digested nutrients are used rather fast by the body being involved in so many chemical processes it's true they add energy in that they catalyze and/or enhance many processes. But, this energy cannot be thought of as calories the way you do in that these calories, or rather energy units don't add to the bulk of the body...they are not lodged anywhere but used very quickly, and neither do they influence the blood sugar or insulin levels other than in positive ways.
Most often a calorie is a calorie, but in fermenting processes this is not always so.
A last note before I leave this forum. Since this forum is about people concerned about carbs, and some also about calories it seems, I guess most of you know about factors in disease and/or obesity like insulin-glucagon, hyperinsilinemia/diabetes, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism and the like.
Then you may be interested in knowing about yet another way to indirectly control excess insulin levels in your body. You see, kefir and other fermented foods and beverages has several insulin-controlling nutrients, like the short and medium chain fatty acids, the high protein levels, the lactic acid (that regulate the secretions of the pancreas and liver), the enzymes that help control blood sugar levels along with easing digestion (relieving the pancreas) and more.
Still another benefit from fermented foods is based on a fact that is usually not known by most people concerned about blood sugar levels and/or insulin, and this is that lactic acid bacterias control and eliminate a bacteria which can, because of a substance it produces that is very similar to insulin in its molecular structure, can create hyperinsulinemia/diabetes (this is even more probable if the bacteria is helped by a intestinal flora that is in bad condition and excesses of carbs in the diet).
This bacteria, eschericia coli (e-coli), if it are not controlled by lactic acid bacterias, produces copious amounts of the insulin mimicking substance, and this substance locks itself to the insulin receptors of the cells this way effectively blocking insulin from being able to enter the cells with nutrients and sugars. The result may be excesses of insulin in the blood, a condition known as hyperinsulinemia which often ends up as diabetes, but even though it don't excesses of insulin in the blood has quite a bunch of negative health consequences as you probably know.
The good news here is as you may know that kefir includes more lactobacilli than any other fermented milk (at least of those analyzed so far) and therefore effectively kill and/or neutralize harmful bacterias like e-coli, along with viruses, parasites and fungus (like candida). Which means yet another protection from excesses of insulin, which is very useful for low carbers.
The research relating to the e-coli/diabetes, reference:
"Insulin or a closely related molecule is native to e-coli", Jn Biol-chemistry, 256: 6533-6536, by D. LeRoith, J. Shiloach, J. Roth, M. Lesniak.
It can be found along with several similar studies here (or in any other MedLine):
Or it can be read in the book PROBIOTICS: How Live Yogurt And Other "Friendly Bacteria" Can Restore Health And Vitality - Leon Chaitow, Natasha Trenev, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-934252-60-2"
If anyone care for books about kefir and/or fermented foods and beverages:
Nourishing Traditions - New Trends Publishing Inc, ISBN 0-9670897-3-5, Sally Fallon & Mary G. Enig
Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes - Terre Vivante, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, ISBN 1-890132-10-1
The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition - Bill Mollison, Tagari Publications, ISBN 0-908228-06-6
The Cultured Cabbage: Rediscovering the Art of Making Sauerkraut - Klaus Kaufmann, Annelies Schoneck, Alive Books, ISBN 0920470661
Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home - Annelies Schoneck, Alive Books, ISBN 155312037X
Fact Book On Fermented Foods And Beverages - Beatrice Trum Hunter, Keats Publishing Inc, ASIN 0879830557
Know Your Fats - Mary G Enig, Bethesda Press, ISBN 0-9678126-0-7
Fact Book On Yogurt, Kefir & Other Milk Cultures - Beatrice Trum Hunter, Keats Publishing Inc, ISBN 87983-033-175
The Magic of Kefir: An Ancient Food for Modern Maladies - Donna Gates, Linda Schatz, B.E.D. Publications Incorporated, ISBN 0963845802
Kefir Rediscovered!: The Nutritional Benefits of an Ancient Healing Food - Klaus Kaufmann, Alive Books, ISBN 0920470653
Kefir: For Pleasure, Beauty and Well-Being - Harald W Tietze, Beekman Publishers Inc, ISBN 0846451964
Making Cheese, Butter and Yogurt - Phyllis Hobson, Storey Books, ISBN 0882662325
Cooking with Yogurt - Olwen Woodier, Storey Books, ISBN 0882663267
The Book of Yogurt: An International Collection of Recipes - Sonia Uvezian, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 0880016515
PROBIOTICS: How Live Yogurt And Other "Friendly Bacteria" Can Restpre Health And Vitality - Leon Chaitow, Natasha Trenev, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-934252-60-2
Probiotics: Nature's Internal Healers - Natasha Trenev, Avery Penguin Putnam, ISBN 0895298473
Beyond Probiotics - Ann Louise Gittleman, McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, ISBN 0879839775
We Want To Live - Aajonus Vonderplanitz, Carnelian Bay Castle Press, ISBN 1-889356-77-8
Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation - Stephen Harrod Buhner, Siris Books, ISBN 093738166
Bye folks, and good luck with your health :-)