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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Brewer's yeast is available in powder, tablet, and liquid forms.
How to Take It
There are no known scientific reports on the therapeutic use of brewer's
yeast in children.
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.
Because supplements may have side effects or interact with medications, they
should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare
Individuals with frequent yeast infections should avoid taking brewer's yeast
as this supplement may aggravate symptoms.
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
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.
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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.
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