Candida Kefyr, probiotic or fungal pathogen?
July 21, 2013 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Why is candida kefyr an ingredient in kefir? Is it beneficial, neutral, or harmful?

I saw candida kefyr listed in some kefir the day and thought it was an odd ingredient as I haven't seen that listen in any yogurts before. On light googling I found some listings in pubmed about candida kefyr as a harmful pathogen that could be problematic in people with weak immune systems.

Since I'm chronically ill I found this concerning. Is there something I'm missing and there is a form of candida kefyr that is actually a beneficial probiotic or are they putting pathogens in the the yogurt and passing it off as health food?

If you know of research based information on this, point me to it please! Thank you!
posted by xarnop to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
To anwser the first question, candida kefyr is the yeast that helps kefir ferment (and is where the name kefir comes from). Yoghurt isn't made with yeast, hence much less fermentation.
posted by Emanuel at 7:19 AM on July 21, 2013

It's listed as a pathogen because it can cause yeast infections, particularly in people with compromised immune systems. That's true of other yeasts used in food as well.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:21 AM on July 21, 2013

Response by poster: For more background, I've been having problems with fungal and yeast infections so, I don't really want MORE yeast in my diet! Thanks for clarifying. Ironically some probiotics actually seem to have some influence in negating some types of yeast and fungal infections (at least according to some reading I've done in pubmed) which I've been dealing with, but I don't know that adding more yeast is a great idea!

The reason this concerns me is that many people read a bottle that says "healing food" all over it and think it will heal their compromised immune system or chronic infections and even if the problem is with the consumer, the people attracted to "healing food" might be the ones who most should avoid some varieties of it. Interesting phenomenon.
posted by xarnop at 7:55 AM on July 21, 2013

Best answer: While both Candida utilis and pseudotropicalis are GRAS, and used industrially for the production of food, if this is Helios Nutrition Kefir you're talking about, their management clearly has precious little understanding of how foodsafe microbiology works and has no business being around things that people put into their mouths much less industrially producing them.

One of the several big problems* with the probiotic movement is how context dependant pathogenicity really can be for opportunistic pathogens. Indeed the academic study of probiotics in sick populations will probably never recover from the large increase in mortality that researchers in the Netherlands described as being associated with their pro-biotic treatments about five years ago as it is now clear that even very well characterized strains have the potential to do harm in vulnerable patients.

*Additionally in the last 20+ years of extremely active research, no one has yet to demonstrate that they have a culture of anything that will actually affect the health of either healthy or sick volunteers when given live that doesn't also have the same effect when given dead. Paradoxically though, even dead many probiotic cultures have statistically significant positive effects on both healthy and sick volunteers. The most plausible theoretical model for why this is the case that I've come across so far is that probiotic cultures, live and dead, serve as especially effective food for feeding the cultures you already have.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:07 AM on July 21, 2013 [13 favorites]

Can't speak to kefir yeast, but someone I'm close to has been seriously immunocompromised, and has been advised not to take probiotic supplements or other probiotic things (to treat diarrhea after having been on heavy-duty antibiotics), because of the risk of the bacteria escaping the gut into the bloodstream.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:17 AM on July 21, 2013

Yogurt and Kefir are two different products. As stated above, Kefir isn't cultured with bacteria like yogurt but fermented with yeasts. (Though there may also be live bacterial cultures in kefir in addition to yeasts? I'm somewhat confused about this, even as a yogurt dork.)

The water gets muddied a little, though, because some people call any drinkable yogurt-like product "kefir", whether it's fermented or cultured. If it's important for you to avoid consuming yeast, you should avoid traditional kefir which contains yeast. If you're looking for a probiotic yogurt-like beverage, you should instead get "drinkable yogurt".

However, beer and wine are also fermented beverages, so if you can drink wine or beer in your current state of health, you should be fine with traditional kefir.
posted by Sara C. at 10:25 AM on July 21, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all, this helps! I tried a little bit of it the past two days and wound up all mucousy and with my chest burning (though I deal with symptoms like this regularly so hard to pinpointed tangible causes if any)- I was already suspicious of the "probiotics" which I think are an interesting field of research, but the vendors of every substance being researched are often quick to make the sell. And of course, I sympathize with we sick people who are desperate for anything that could be healing. I think I'll avoid in the future. Thanks for the info!
posted by xarnop at 11:15 AM on July 21, 2013

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