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Table of Contents > Supplements > Brewer's Yeast
Brewer's Yeast
Overview
Uses
Available Forms
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

Brewer's yeast is an active yeast used to make beer and can also be grown specifically to make nutritional supplements. It is a rich source of minerals (particularly chromium), protein, and the B-complex vitamins. Brewer's yeast is bitter in taste and should not be confused with baker's yeast, nutritional yeast, or torula yeast as these forms of yeast are low in chromium. Chromium is an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels. It occurs naturally in the environment and is an important contributor to human health. Some experts estimate that as many as 90% of Americans don't get enough chromium in their diet.


Uses

General

Brewer's yeast is often used as a source of B-complex vitamins and chromium. The B-complex vitamins in brewer's yeast include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), and H (biotin). These vitamins help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which provide the body with energy. They also support the nervous system, help maintain the muscles used for digestion, and promote the health of skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver.

Stress

Some consider B-complex vitamins to be important during times of physical and/or emotional stress. Therefore, a healthcare professional may recommend using brewer's yeast as a source of B vitamins for ongoing or recurrent illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or depression.

Injury
Similarly, the B complex is considered an important nutrient following an injury. Therefore, sources of vitamin B may be recommended during recovery, for example, from a wound or a burn.

Diabetes

Some studies suggest that chromium supplements may help individuals with diabetes. This condition is characterized by abnormally high levels of sugar in the blood. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin—a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life—or cannot use the insulin that their bodies produce. Chromium may reduce blood sugar levels as well as the amount of insulin needed by individuals with this condition. Given that brewer's yeast is a rich source of chromium, this may prove to be a valuable nutritional supplement for people with diabetics, particularly because brewer's yeast is more easily absorbed than other sources of chromium.

High Cholesterol

As stated earlier, brewer's yeast is an important source of chromium. This mineral can help lower LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels in the blood and raise HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels. In addition, some experts suggest that other factors found in brewer's yeast also help lower cholesterol.

Weight Loss

Although some studies suggest that chromium may improve lean body mass and reduce body fat, its effects are minor compared to those of exercise and a well-balanced diet.


Available Forms

Brewer's yeast is available in powder, tablet, and liquid forms.


How to Take It

Pediatric

There are no known scientific reports on the therapeutic use of brewer's yeast in children.

Adult

  • 4 Tbsp/day dissolved in juice or water. If this amount causes gas (which can occur in individuals with diets low in B vitamins), begin with 1 Tbsp/day and slowly increase dosage.

Precautions

Because supplements may have side effects or interact with medications, they should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

Individuals with frequent yeast infections should avoid taking brewer's yeast as this supplement may aggravate symptoms.


Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use brewer's yeast without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Antidepressants, Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Brewer's yeast contains a significant amount of tyramine, a substance that should be avoided by individuals taking antidepressant medications known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Examples of MAOIs include phenelzine, tranylcypromine, pargyline, selegiline (also used for Parkinson's disease), and isocarboxazid. This interaction may lead to "hypertensive crisis," a rapid and severe increase in blood pressure that is characterized by nausea and vomiting, headache, and irregular heartbeat. This reaction may even result in a heart attack or stroke.

Narcotics for Pain
As with MAOI antidepressants, brewer's yeast may also lead to "hypertensive crisis" if taken with meperidine, a narcotic medication used to relieve intense pain.


Supporting Research

Anderson RA. Effects of chromium on body composition and weight loss. Nutr Rev. 1998;56(9):266-270.

Anderson RA. Chromium, glucose intolerance and diabetes. J Amer Coll Nutr. 1998;17:548-555.

Anderson RA. Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes. Diabetes Metab. 2000; 26:22-27.

Anderson RA. Elevated intake of supplemental chromium improved glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 1997;46:1786-1791.

Bentley JP, Hunt TK, Weiss JB, et al. Peptides from live yeast cell derivative stimulate wound healing. Arch Surg. 1990;125:641-646.

De-Souza DA, Greene LJ. Pharmacological nutrition after burn injury. J Nutr. 1998;128:797-803.

Hegoczki J, Suhajda A, Janzso B, Vereczkey G. Preparation of chromium enriched yeasts. Acta Alimentaria. 1997;26:345-358.

Kirschmann GJ, Kirschmann JD, eds. Nutrition Almanac. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill;1996:382.

Li Y-C. Effects of brewer's yeast on glucose tolerance and serum lipids in Chinese adults. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1994;41:341-347.

McCarty MF. Insulin resistance in Mexican Americans: a precursor to obesity and diabetes? Med Hypotheses. 1993;41:308-315.

Meyer NA, Muller MJ, Herndon DN. Nutrient support of the healing wound. New Horizons. 1994;2(2):202-214.

Porter D, Raymond LW, Anastasio GD. Chromium: friend or foe? Arch Fam Med. 1999;8:386-390.

Rabinowitz MB, Gonick HC, Levin SR, Davidson MB. Effects of chromium and yeast supplements on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic men. Diabetes Care. 1983;6:319-327.

Utermohlen V. Diet, Nutrition, and Drug Interactions. In: Shils M, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th edition. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1999:1628-1629.

Werbach M. Foundations of Nutritional Medicine. Tarzana, Calif: Third Line Press, Inc.; 1997:209.


Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Ruth DeBusk, RD, PhD, Editor, Nutrition in Complementary Care, Tallahassee, FL; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, Ma; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
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Burns
Diabetes Mellitus
Hypercholesterolemia
Stress
Wounds
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Summary
MAO Inhibitors
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