"Gift of God" Brewer's yeast is made from a one-celled fungus called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is a combination of three root words; "saccharo", derived from the Latin word “saccharum” meaning sugar, the Greek word "myces" for fungus and "cerevisiae" the Latin word for brewery. Few other microbial organisms match the yeasts in terms of historical, economic, and scientific significance. Use of yeast in baking and brewing dates to 2000 BC, with records found in Egyptian tombs. According to historians, the first beers were accidentally brewed in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and their fermentation was spontaneous. Air-borne wild yeasts fermented the must/wort left in the sun, and beer was born. Yeast acquired the nickname “gift of god” because there didn’t appear to be any ingredient added to the brew that could start the fermentation process. It seemed to just “happen”. Styles of beer varied from region to region, as a result of different air-borne wild yeast strains that were to be found in each particular region. The first scientific research on brewer's yeast was conducted by Louis Pasteur in 1876 (Les études sur la Bière) and allowed the selection and storage of the most appropriate brewing strains, as well as the development of beer pasteurization.
Brewer's yeast has generous quantities of all the major B-vitamins (except B12), 16 amino acids (which makes it a complete protein), and 18 or more minerals, including selenium and chromium, which is not found in many foods. It is important to understand, however, that the yeast used for brewing is live while the brewer’s yeast commonly known as a nutritional supplement is deactivated. That means the microorganisms have been killed off through pasteurization or drying, but the proteins, vitamins and minerals are still there. Brewer’s yeast is a typical favorite of those practicing a vegetarian diet because of the proteins and numerous B-complex vitamins that it provides. These vitamins are usually found in beef, fish and poultry. Regardless of dietary practice, this type of yeast can still adequately supply you with the following nutrients: Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H), and Folic acid (Vitamin B9). However, it should be noted that brewer's yeast does not contain vitamin B12, an essential vitamin found in meat and dairy products. Comprised of 52 percent protein, brewer's yeast is an excellent low-fat (25% stearic and 75% palmitic acids) source of protein and is a favored energy food among fitness enthusiasts.
One of the earliest pieces of research regarding brewer's yeast came from around the time of the Spanish Civil War. During the second winter of the war in 1937, there was a widespread deficiency of niacin (vitamin B3) - called “pellagra” - along with many neurological disorders. By giving victims B3 they were able to treat the pellagra, however, the neurological disorders showed no improvement. That changed once they began giving the patients brewer’s yeast. The conclusion of this research was that the neurological issues present were not the result of B3 deficiency, but rather to lacking a key element of the B complex that was present in the brewer’s yeast.
The product that was to become Marmite was invented in the late 19th century when German scientist Justus von Liebig discovered that brewer's yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten. By 1912, the discovery of vitamins was a boost for Marmite, as the spread is a rich source of the vitamin B complex. With the vitamin B1 deficiency beriberi being common during World War I, the spread became more popular. British troops during World War I were issued Marmite as part of their rations. Vegemite is yet another example of a brewer's yeast based nutritional spread that is popular in Australia.
Brewer’s yeast does have a rather high calorie content, so you should keep this in mind if you have difficulties with weight. One ounce of brewer's yeast typically contains 80 calories, with 11 g protein, 10.9 g carbohydrate, 1.1 g dietary fiber, 0.3 g fat, 537 mg potassium, 497 mg phosphorus, 60 mg calcium, 34 mg sodium, 10.7 mg niacin, 4.9 mg iron, 4.4 mg thiamine, 1.2 mg riboflavin and 110 mcg chromium.
Brewer's yeast was originally made as a by-product of beer manufacturing, but now is largely made from food sources like sugar beets. Brewer's yeast tastes bitter and should not be confused with baker's yeast, nutritional yeast, or torula yeast. All those types of yeast are low in chromium. Additionally, consumers interested in the benefits offered by the chromium in brewer’s yeast should steer clear of supplements identified as “debittered”, since the debittering process removes chromium. It is often advised that brewer’s yeast be added at the end or after the food is cooked so that the heat doesn’t wipe out the B vitamins.
Benefits of brewer's yeast for specific health conditions include the following:
During moments of stress, the body burns through B vitamins quickly. B vitamins help with nerve function and stress management. Because brewers yeast is rich in B vitamins, it's an essential supplement for high-stress individuals. It restores the B vitamin levels that are being used up rapidly. By having the proper balance of B vitamins, the brain does not signal the rest of the body to release hormones like adrenaline and epinephrine that trigger many feelings of anxiety.
Vitamins B3 and B6 are essential for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, ensuring mental health and preventing sleep disorders. Two 2016 studies have now confirmed that supplementing with brewer's yeast can significantly improve sleep. Both studies were from Japan. In one of these, researchers tested 68 healthy adults. They took either 500 milligrams of brewer's yeast tablets or a placebo an hour before going to bed for four nights. Electroencephalogram analyses found the yeast supplementation increased delta wave sleep and increased growth hormone secretion. They also found the subjects who took the yeast were more rested and less sleepy the next day.
B vitamins help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which provide the body with energy. While brewer’s yeast alone will not make you gain more muscle, it can keep your energy levels up and help your body process protein.
Brewer’s yeast is also used to treat poor skin conditions, contact dermatitis, and is known to hasten the wound healing process for skin cuts, burns, and injuries. Glucan, a substance derived from the yeast, has been shown to improve wound healing in mice by activating macrophages and promoting the growth of skin cells and capillaries. Thiamine promotes healthy circulation; riboflavin helps to minimize brown spots; pyridoxine can help to prevent eczema; and chromium is beneficial in treating acne. “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” cites a double-blind study that concluded some 80 percent of subjects given brewer’s yeast for five months showed either marked improvement in acne symptoms or were completely healed.
Brewer’s yeast contains many nutrients important for healthy hair. Biotin B7 (co-enzyme that helps the body break down and build up protein, affecting hair growth because hair is made of a protein called keratin), riboflavin B2, thiamine B1, selenium (works hand in hand with vitamin E to destroy free radicals that damage cell membranes. Lack of vitamin E, or improper ability of the body to use vitamin E, can lead to dry or dull hair and hair loss), niacin B3 (boosts scalp circulation), pantothenic acid B5 (essential nutrient for hair growth and health. while also supporting hair color restoration by promoting melanin production), pyridoxine B6 (deficiency can lead to hair loss. Pyridoxine helps block conversion of testosterone into DHT. Higher levels of DHT are found in men with male pattern baldness, than men who do not have this condition) and folic acid B9 (required to maintain sufficient levels of the amino acid methionine, which is a building block of healthy hair color). Brewer's yeast is a super food that contains a natural power mix of anti grey nutrients that support melanin production. The B vitamins in brewer's yeast improve blood circulation to the scalp, contributing to the overall strength of the hair follicle, and combating brittle hair.
Brewer's yeast inhibits the food-borne pathogens Salmonella and E. coli, according to a study published in the "Journal of Medical Microbiology." Brewer's yeast prevented spread of Salmonella to the liver and improved liver function, allowing more effective removal of bacteria from the bloodstream. Researchers concluded that brewer's yeast bolstered the immune system by acting both locally - at the site of infection - and systemically - throughout the body. Brewer's yeast contains a very important trace mineral, selenium, that acts as a powerful antioxidant, fighting off the potential damage of free radicals. This yeast is also said to strengthen the gut's mucus membrane to keep out infection. The polysaccharides in brewer’s yeast stimulate the body’s immune function by providing support for the microphages that combat germs. They also contribute to overall health by supporting the regeneration of cells. Additionally, sugars in brewer’s yeast have potent antiviral properties that are effective on at least 13 viruses. One large study found that taking a specific kind of brewer's yeast product (EpiCor) may help reduce the risk of getting a cold or the flu, and if contracted, helps symptoms dissipate more quickly.
Some forms of cancer may be prevented by brewer's yeast, according to a cell culture study published in the June 2012 issue of the journal "Cytotechnology." In the study, beta-glucan, a polysaccharide molecule found in brewer's yeast, protected against DNA damage from ultraviolet light. In a study published in the September 2012 issue of the journal "Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications" brewer's yeast demonstrated the ability to prevent structures at the ends of chromosomes from becoming eroded, a process that can lead to cancerous cell division. Researchers note that a protein in brewer's yeast is similar in structure to a protein that participates in human cell division. Brewer's yeast has the presence of beta-1,3 glucans, which have been shown to stimulate the body’s immune system. Researchers at the University of Louisville established a receptor found on the surface of certain immune cells that is known for binding itself to beta-glucans, which permits the immune cells to recognize the beta-glucans as being dissimilar. While some pharmaceutical drugs are capable of over-stimulating the body’s immune system during therapy and are therefore not suitable for people with autoimmune illnesses, beta-glucans appear to assist the immune system without causing overactivity. Beta-glucans are also apparently capable of lowering LDL cholesterol levels, assisting in the healing of wounds, and aid in the prevention of infections. Beta-glucans derived from shiitake mushrooms have been applied as immunoadjuvant treatment for cancers since 1980. This therapy is particularly popular in Japan. Several studies indicate that beta-glucans can prevent the formation of tumors and the development of cancers. In an experiment conducted with mice, beta 1,3 glucans administered with interferon gamma slowed the progress of tumors and metastasis to the liver. It was also proved that among human colorectal cancer patients, ingestion of beta-1,3 glucans from shiitake mushrooms, along with chemotherapy, generated a longer rate of survival.
There was also an Australian study where children with phenylketonuria had low blood levels of selenium, which is a critical anti-cancer mineral and antioxidant that has largely gone missing from the food supply. After taking brewer’s yeast daily for six months, the children were tested again and found that the 50 mcg inside the servings of brewer’s yeast raised their selenium levels.
Aging is inevitable, but brewer's yeast might be a drop from the fountain of youth. It works by preserving the function of telomeres - stretches of DNA found at the end of chromosomes. They help protect DNA as cells replicate, but also shorten with each replication. This shortening process might be a contributing factor to aging. A specific protein in brewer's yeast helps preserve telomeres, and might slow the effects of aging.
Brewer's yeast may help to prevent constipation. Thirty grams of brewer's yeast contains approximately 6 grams of dietary fiber (24% of the recommended daily amount). Fiber is an important part of the diet as it helps increase the bulk of fecal matter, thereby promoting healthy bowels and intestines. Brewer's yeast seems to stimulate chemicals (intestinal enzymes) that could help relieve diarrhea by fighting harmful bacteria in the intestines, while also encouraging the growth of good intestinal bacteria. Brewer's yeast inhibits Clostridium difficile, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes diarrhea. Researchers from France’s Lille University tested 179 adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They were divided into two groups. One group was given 500 milligrams of Brewer’s yeast in a capsule and the other group was given a placebo. After eight weeks of supplementation, the yeast supplement group had significantly less abdominal pain and discomfort compared with the placebo group.
Brewer's yeast is considered a probiotic (live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host). In addition to yeast's major contribution to flavor development in fermented foods, their antagonistic activities toward undesirable bacteria and fungi are now widely known. These activities are associated with their competitiveness for nutrients, acidification of their growth medium, tolerance of high concentrations of ethanol, and release of antimicrobial compounds such as antifungal killer toxins or “mycocins”. Brewer's yeast does not produce toxins that are harmful to humans or animals. However, it is capable of producing what are known as “killer toxins” that are fatal to other yeasts. Until recently, the design of foods containing probiotics has focused primarily on Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Because probiotic yeast and bacteria have different mechanisms of action, a synergistic effect and higher viability might be expected from mixing both types of probiotics. Several studies showed that yeasts could positively interact with probiotic bacteria by enhancing their survival and stimulating their growth.
Chromium plays a role in the normal metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids. A study published in the July 2011 issue of the "Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology" found that chromium exerted beneficial effects on blood sugar and cholesterol levels in individuals recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Participants consumed 9 grams of brewer's yeast per day for 40 days. Results showed a 42 percent reduction in fasting blood sugar levels and a 28 percent drop in hemoglobin A1c, or HbA1c, a measure of average blood sugar, over a 3-month period. Levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL "bad" cholesterol, were also reduced by 17 percent. In another study, researchers from Portland’s National College of Natural Medicine studied 12 adults for eight weeks. They were given blood tests for heart disease markers and then given 5.6 billion CFUs of Saccharomyces cerevisiae per day. After the 8 weeks, the researchers found that levels of remnant lipoprotein particles (RLP-P) fell by an average of 15.5%. RLP-P has been linked in other research with a higher risk of coronary artery disease.
If you and your partner are thinking it's baby time, brewer's yeast can be a beneficial addition to your trying-to-conceive program. Brewer's yeast contains para-aminobenzoic acid, a compound that can stimulate the production of estrogen and lower follicle-stimulating hormone - the hormone involved in mature egg production - levels. Brewer's yeast is also a good source of zinc, which a natural sperm-count booster.
One study tested a yeast-based supplement on premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and found it to be effective. The dietary supplement used is called Sillix Donna and it is composed of the same microorganism present in brewer’s yeast.
Morning sickness can be eased by brewer's yeast, which is chock full of B vitamins known to ease nausea.
Historically, midwives and folk health care providers have recommended brewer's yeast as a galactagogue, or a natural product for increasing a mother's production of breast milk. Brewer's yeast's reputation as a galactagogue likely relates to the historic use of beer as a breast milk enhancer. Traditionally, many cultures have associated naturally brewed beers with increased lactation. Brewer's yeast can be an effective nutritional supplement for breastfeeding mothers, even if its reputation as a galactagogue is unfounded. If you take brewer's yeast as a dietary supplement while you're breastfeeding, the protein, iron, and B vitamins may help to combat fatigue and fight off the baby blues, as some research suggests that B vitamins and chromium can improve the symptoms of depression.