Benefits and Side Effects of Brewer's Yeast

Derived from a fungus known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, brewer’s yeast is a key ingredient in the production of beer and ale. It's also taken as a nutritional supplement due to its rich supply of protein, B-complex vitamins and minerals, most notably chromium and selenium. While brewer's yeast can provide necessary nutrients to your diet and may be helpful for some conditions, consult your doctor before you self-treat with brewer’s yeast or any other herbal supplement.

Beer and ale contain brewer's yeast. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Nutrition

Brewer’s yeast contains a number of beneficial nutrients. 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. 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, notes Deborah A. Klein, registered dietitian. Brewer’s yeast does have a rather high calorie content, so you should keep this in mind if you have difficulties with weight.

Lowers Glucose, Cholesterol

Chromium plays a role in the normal metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids. In an study published in May 2011 by the "Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology," researchers reported on Type 2 diabetes patients divided randomly into two study groups; over a period of three months, one group received daily doses of 9 g of brewer’s yeast with chromium, and the other group received chromium-free brewer’s yeast. Patients who received chromium-enhanced brewer's yeast showed sharply lower blood glucose levels, as well as sharply reduced total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins, the so-called "bad" cholesterol.

Stimulates Immune Function

In “Miracle Sugars,” master herbalist Rita Elkins recalls as a child being told by her grandmother to take a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast granules every morning to “keep the germs away.” Elkins reports that this turns out to be true, as the polysaccharides in brewer’s yeast stimulate the body’s immune function by providing support for the microphages that combat germs. The polysaccharides in yeast 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, Elkins says.

Side Effects and Interactions

Side effects from brewer’s yeast are generally mild but may include gas and bloating. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that dangerous blood pressure interactions are possible if you take brewer’s yeast while also taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs for depression, such as phenelzine, tranylcypromine, selegiline and isocarboxazid, or the narcotic painkiller Demerol; brewer’s yeast can also interact with diabetes medications. Avoid brewer’s yeast supplements if you are allergic to yeast or prone to yeast infections.

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