Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kefir and breast cancer

(thanks to Dr. Jacob Schor once again for bringing yet another health topic to my attention; check out his web-site at denvernaturopathic.com to subscribe to his newsletter)

Human beings have a self-preservation mechanism in the gag reflex; when something unexpectedly unpleasant in taste or texture hits the mouth, the entire upper digestive system reacts quickly and violently to eject to the offender. The first time I learned about this survival mechanism, I had just taken a large mouthful of buttermilk with my childhood friend Jean's encouragement. She raved about how tasty it was when, in fact, it was vile. I laughed hard and gagged simultaneously, sending the buttermilk through my nose.

Decades later, I accepted a small jar of homemade kefir from my patient V who took a bottle of the worthy stuff to work every day along with a container of home-cooked stew. As she is absolutely one of the healthiest people I know and care for, I was eager to start a kefir habit of my own. But oh heavens, it's surprisingly tart and foul, worse than buttermilk, and I spit the stuff out. New research suggests, however, that it may be the latest and greatest chemopreventive agent against breast cancer. Maybe chocolate syrup can enhance the taste. Check this out:

Canadian nutritionists cultured human breast cells--both cancerous and not-- in the lab, then fed the little colonies extracts of kefir, yogurt, and plain old pasteurized milk in various concentrations and checked out who thrived and who died(1). Kefir depressed tumor cell growth in a dose dependent fashion--the more kefir present, the fewer the cells. A .63% kefir extract dose (now perhaps even I could handle that) decreased tumor cell numbers by 29% and the 2.5% formula felled those cancerous bad girls to 56% their pre-kefir numbers. The yogurt also suppressed tumor growth, but less vigorously than the kefir. And the milk stimulated both lines of breast cells--normal and malignant--at concentrations as low as .31%!

Do I want to wait for more info, more studies? I think not. I'm calling V tomorrow for her kefir recipe. After all, if I fully expect it to taste sour and slightly carbonated, I can overcome the urge to cough it out through my nose.
(1) Chen, C et al. Kefir extracts suppress in vitro proliferation of estrogen-dependent human breast cancer cells but not normal mammary epithelial cells. J Med Food. 2007 Sep;10(3):416-22.


Haralee said...

Regarding the gag effect, I used to sell Robitussin to Pediatric doctors. When I had a new flavor, I had a doc who asked me to give her samples and wait outside the room. If the kids did not gag and spit it out, she wanted it. As an experienced pediatrician, she used the gag/spit out test for medications to be able to alert parents!

Ruth said...

I like buttermilk, kefir and plain yogurt and used to make my own in the 1970s before you could buy it readily. I bought the cultures in a "hippie" health food store. Now I just buy plain yogurt and love the taste.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could blend the kefir with blueberries and agave nectar and freeze it in popsicle molds. LOL

advanlink said...

Is kefir good for breast calcification? I need your sound advice.

femail doc said...

Advanlink: I am unfamiliar with kefir's effect on breast calcification. Many such calcifications are entirely benign and will never undergo malignant change. But insofar as kefir is breast-friendly, if you can stand the stuff you might want to use it to promote breast health even if it doesn't decrease calcifications.