Kefir proves to be excellent post-workout drink for cancer patients

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14 Jul 2017 --- Kefir may be a beneficial post-exercise beverage for cancer survivors because its nutritional qualities reduce the risk of upsetting the stomach, according to a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science.

Regular exercise is an important part of the recovery process for many cancer survivors. However they can be put off from enjoying a milk drink post-workout because it can lead to an upset stomach and other digestive problems due to the treatment patients are having. 

This is where kefir comes in, says the latest research. 

Kefir is a fermented milk product that is a good source of protein, health-promoting bacteria and carbohydrates. Documented health effects attributed to the consumption of kefir include improved lactose use, anticarcinogenic activity, control of intestinal infections, improved milk flavor and nutritional quality.

Investigators explored cancer survivors’ attitudes about consumption and acceptance of a kefir recovery beverage made from cultured milk, whole fruit, natural sweeteners and other natural ingredients. 

By inoculating and fermenting milk with kefir grains, researchers developed a kefir beverage that met the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for recommended nutrition after endurance and resistance exercise. The kefir was then mixed with a fruit base and given to 52 cancer survivors following an exercise session.

Participants evaluated the acceptability of the beverage samples (overall appearance, aroma, taste, mouth-feel and overall liking) using a nine-point scale, and they evaluated the smoothness using a three-category just-about-right scale (not enough, just about right and too much). They also expressed their physical and psychological feelings about the beverage using a five-point scale (ranging from 1 = not at all to 5 = extremely) and indicated their intent to purchase the drink.

Following the initial test, the health benefits of kefir were explained, and participants sampled the product a second time, answering the same questions related to overall liking, feeling and intent to purchase. Participants showed a high intent to purchase both before and after they learned about the health benefits, but the beverage scored significantly higher for overall liking after the health benefits were explained.

Click to Enlarge

“Kefir may be a great way for cancer survivors to enjoy a post-exercise dairy drink in the future,” commented lead investigator Laura K. Stewart, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of Northern Colorado, School of Sport and Exercise Science. 

According to data from Innova Market Insights, kefir appears to be bucking the trend that has seen launch activity in drinking yogurts and fermented beverages remain relatively static in recent years. 

While kefir launch numbers are still limited globally, Innova Market Insights data indicate that they grew more than three-fold between 2011 and 2016. 

“As interest in fermented dairy products spread in the west alongside the arrival of the so-called functional foods market in the 1990s,” reports Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights. “Kefir started to move out of its home in the Caucasus via limited availability in specialist health food stores in western markets to a more value-added, mainstream positioning, particularly in the US,” she adds.

Click to EnlargeKefir is strongly promoted on its healthy properties, particularly with rising interest in fermented foods and beverages overall. All US and nearly 94 percent of global launches used some health positioning in 2016. There was an initial emphasis on probiotics, particularly focusing on digestive health benefits. Even though regulatory issues have made this type of claim more difficult in some parts of the world, digestive health claims were still used for nearly two-thirds of global launches in 2016. 

Nearly half of kefir launches use low-fat claims and the sector has also not been slow to exploit rising concerns over sugar intake in the diet. The number of global launches positioned on low sugar/no-added-sugar and sugar-free positionings double in 2016 to feature in 20 percent of the total. Organic and lactose-free variants are also increasingly common among kefir launches.

by Lucy Gunn

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