Brewer’s yeast is a nutrient-rich food with many health benefits. This budding yeast is good for the gut, helps boost immunity, increases energy levels, and promotes weight loss. However, it has some side effects and is not good for everyone. Read this post to learn about the pros and cons of eating brewer’s yeast.

What Is Brewer’s Yeast?

Brewer’s yeast was originally produced as a by-product of beer brewing and has a bitter taste. Nowadays, it is dried and used as a nutritional supplement [1].

Specifically, it is made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S. cerevisiae), a type of yeast that has been used in brewing and baking since ancient times [2].

S. cerevisiae has a wide arrange of beneficial health effects like lowering cholesterol, enhancing the immune system, decreasing inflammation, and relieving symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) [34].

Brewer’s yeast” can refer to:

  • The active form of S. cerevisiae that is used for brewing
  • The leftover S. cerevisiae from the brewing process that is used as a supplement. This type has a strong bitter flavor
  • S. cerevisiae that was grown on grain

Supplemental brewer’s yeast is grown on a medium of corn and other types of grain. It is high in protein, B-vitamins, and chromium (some of the newer “debittered” forms don’t have chromium) [1].

However, the nutritional profile varies depending on the grain on which the yeast is grown, how it is processed, and whether it has added nutrients [1].

In general, S.cerevisiae has:

  • B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, Folate)
  • Minerals (Potassium, Chromium, Zinc, Selenium, Lithium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Copper)
  • Protein
  • Probiotics
  • Prebiotics (Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS), beta-glucans)
  • Anti-inflammatories and immune stimulants (beta-glucans)
  • Nicotinamide riboside
  • Nucleotides: DNA and RNA
  • Ergosterol [5] – these have pro and antiestrogenic properties. It inhibits breast cancer.

Out of all these ingredients, the most interesting ones are beta-glucans, nicotinamide riboside, and DNA and RNA nucleotides. Nucleotides in whole foods can give you a great energy boost and rev up your cognitive skills [6+, 7].

Is brewer’s yeast the same as nutritional yeast?

Brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast are close relatives. No wonder it’s easy to confuse them. For example, nutritional yeast is also made from S. cerevisiae [2].

Their nutritional profile is also similar. Both are a rich source of B vitamins, which support the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Unlike nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast is also high in iron, selenium, zinc, and potassium. Brewer’s yeast is also a good source of protein, providing essential amino acids that the body doesn’t make by itself [1].

Although nutritional yeast is also a good source of protein and B-vitamins, it contains little to no chromium. It is usually fortified with vitamin B12 and folic acid (B9) [1].

And unlike brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast has always been cultivated specifically for its nutrition. It’s grown on a glucose medium, making it gluten-free [1]. Depending on the medium it’s grown on, brewer’s yeast may contain gluten.

Nutritional yeast is S. cerevisiae that is grown solely for supplemental use. It is usually fortified with vitamin B-12 and folic acid.

Benefits of Brewer’s Yeast

1) Beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes

Brewer’s yeast is naturally rich in glucose tolerance factor (GTF), a compound that contains a biologically-active form of chromium [8].

GTF decreased blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and increased levels HDL (“good”) cholesterol in diabetic rats and humans with type 2 diabetes [9].

It also prevents kidney and eye damage in diabetic animals [10].

Glucose tolerance factor achieves these effects by mimicking insulin. It can:

  • activate proteins involved in insulin signaling pathways [10].
  • enhance glucose transport [11].
  • promote glycogen storage [12].

Glucose tolerance factor also enhances the activity of insulin by helping it bind to cells [1013].

2) Helps with Weight Loss

In a study of 54 obese men and women, brewer’s yeast reduced body weight and stomach fat without any negative effects on lean body mass [14].

These results coincide with data from previous animal and human studies showing decreased body weight and body fat after yeast supplementation [15, 16].

Yeast (from S.cerevisiae) reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin in mice, which may partly explain the loss in body weight [17, 16].

It also decreases fat production by reducing the activity of liver enzymes required for making fatty acids [15].

In addition, nicotinamide riboside (found in brewer’s yeast) increases enzymes involved in fat burning (sirtuins) and energy usage, thereby increasing weight loss [18].

3) May Prevent Heart Disease

A diet rich in brewer’s yeast may lower the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol and blood pressure levels [19, 13, 20].

Brewer’s yeast contains many cholesterol-lowering vitamins and minerals:

  • Beta-glucans [21]
  • Niacin (which also increases HDL levels) [22]
  • Nicotinamide riboside [23]
  • Glucose tolerance factor [24]

Consuming brewer’s yeast daily lowered LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increased HDL cholesterol in type 2 diabetic patients with high blood cholesterol [19].

Aside from lowering cholesterol, brewer’s yeast also reduces blood pressure. One study in 90 adults with type 2 diabetes found that brewer’s yeast significantly lowered both diastolic and systolic blood pressure [13].

The high amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium in brewer’s yeast may explain this reduction in blood pressure. According to some studies, a greater intake of these minerals can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke [13, 25].

Brewer’s yeast also contains proteins that help decrease blood pressure by decreasing the activity of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). A higher activity of this enzyme is linked to high blood pressure [26, 27, 28].

4) Great for the Gut

S. cerevisiae helps promote optimal gut function by:

  • Clearing away bad bacteria while supporting good bacteria [29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34]
  • Preventing harmful bacteria and fungal toxins from sticking to the intestines [3, 35, 36, 37, 38]
  • Aiding nutrient absorption by increasing gut surface area [39, 31]
  • Breaking down phytate, which increases the absorption of minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium [40, 41, 42]
  • Preserving gut barrier integrity [43, 44, 45]
  • Decreasing inflammation [44]
  • Fighting infections [46]

Many of these effects are mediated by the presence of prebiotics and probiotics in S.cerevisiae (i.e. beta-glucans and mannan oligosaccharides as well as nucleotides [31, 3, 47].

Because of this, S.cerevisiae may help treat some gut diseases. Brewer’s yeast improved the outcome of C. difficile-associated diarrhea in animals and humans [48, 49].

S.cerevisiae also eased stomach pain and discomfort in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) disease in one study [50].

However, Saccharomyces boulardii is the only variant of S. cerevisiae currently approved for probiotic use in humans because of its clinical effectiveness in treating diarrhea and other gut disorders [51, 52].

5) Boosts the Immune System

Beta-glucans (sugars found in the cell walls of yeast, bacteria, and fungi) can activate the immune system and boost immune response [53].

These sugars enhance the function of the main cells in the innate immune system including macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells [54].

Beta-glucans bind to specific receptors on these cells, initiating a wide variety of beneficial immune responses (e.g., anti-inflammatory cytokine production) [55].

However, not all beta-glucans are equal. Beta-glucans derived from different sources have unique structures that result in different effects [56].

Research indicates that beta glucans from yeast (i.e., beta-1–3-glucan) have the greatest capacity to activate the immune system [56].

Beta-glucans derived from S.cerevisiae have shown promising results including:

  • Reduced incidence of bacterial, viral, and fungal infection in mice and humans [57585960]
  • Decreased allergy symptoms in mice and humans [616263]
  • Reduced occurrence of post-operative infection in animals and humans [64]
  • Decreased inflammation and faster wound healing in animals and humans [6566]
  • Reduced rate of cancer tumor size and growth in animals [67]
  • Increased regeneration of white blood cells after radiation in mice [68]
  • Decreased inflammation in mouse models of arthritis [69]

6) Anti-Cancer Effects

Brewer’s yeast contains ergosterol, a compound that inhibits the growth of human breast cancer cells [70].

One study found that S.cerevisiae killed breast cancer cells by causing programmed cell death (apoptosis) [71].

This yeast is an excellent source of selenium, a mineral that has anti-cancer effects [72].

7) May Enhance Energy Levels and Improve Mood

S.cerevisiae is a natural dietary source of nucleotides. Nucleotides enhanced endurance and post workout recovery in athletes, indicating that brewer’s yeast may be used to reduce fatigue [73, 74].

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome are often deficient in many nutrients, which can worsen symptoms. A nutritional supplement based on brewer’s yeast (Nagipol) improved cognitive function and mood in chronic fatigue syndrome patients. These effects suggest that brewer’s yeast may be a useful treatment for this disorder [75, 76].

Brewer’s yeast contains lithium, an element traditionally used to treat mood disorders. Naturally lithium-rich brewer’s yeast improved mood in former drug users [77].

8) May Promote Healthy Skin

Cosmetic products containing S.cerevisiae extract improved skin moisture, brightness, and smoothness in volunteers [78].

These effects likely stem from the abundant amount of proteins, beta-glucans, vitamins and minerals in S.cerevisiae that have wound healing, hydrating, and antioxidant properties [79, 80, 78].

9) May Improve Brain Health and Cognitive Function

Brewer’s yeast is a natural source of nicotinamide riboside, a form of vitamin B3 that is a precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) [81].

Nicotinamide riboside can safely raise levels of NAD in animals and humans [82].

Higher levels of NAD protect nerve cells and may prevent neurodegenerative disease [83, 84].

Increasing NAD levels with nicotinamide riboside restored cognitive function in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease [85].

In addition, nicotinamide riboside slowed axonal degeneration in cells by stimulating NAD pathways. Preventing axonal damage can help preserve brain cells after injury [84].

10) May Protect Against Hearing Loss

Nicotinamide riboside, a form of vitamin B3 found in brewer’s yeast, prevented noise-induced hearing loss in mice. It reduced nerve cell damage caused by noise exposure [86].

11) May Promote a Healthy Pregnancy

S.cerevisiae is a rich dietary source of folate, a vitamin that helps prevent major birth defects [3, 87].

Oxidative stress is a major cause of high blood pressure in pregnancy that results in complications to the mother and fetus. S. cerevisiae reduced oxidative stress in maternal cord red blood cells, indicating that it may be useful in reducing oxidative damage to the fetus [88, 89].

12) Alleviates Premenstrual Syndrome

Brewer’s yeast in combination with vitamins and minerals relieved premenstrual pain in 40 women with mild to moderate premenstrual syndrome [90].

13) Anti-Aging Properties

Nicotinamide riboside (which is found in brewer’s yeast) extended the lifespan of yeast by increasing NAD synthesis and sirtuin activity [91].

It also promoted longevity in mice by improving mitochondrial function. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a key component in aging [92, 93].

14) May Improve Thyroid Function

Brewer’s yeast is a good source of selenium, a mineral essential for thyroid gland function and thyroid hormone production. Selenium supplementation decreases anti-thyroid antibody levels in patients with Hashimoto’s disease [94, 95, 96].

Selenium also restores thyroid gland function in Grave’s disease patients [97, 98].

15) May Promote Fertility

Brewer’s yeast contains zinc, a mineral critical for male reproductive health. Increasing zinc levels in infertile men improves sperm count, quality of sperm, and male fertility [99, 100].

Side Effects and Risks of Brewer’s Yeast

  • S.cerevisiae is generally safe but may cause infections in people with weakened immune systems [101].
  • People with yeast infections (including candida) or allergies to yeast should avoid brewer’s yeast [102, 103].
  • Dietary intake of brewer’s yeast may increase the severity of Crohn’s disease and celiac disease in patients with antibodies to S.cerevisiae [104, 105, 106, 107].
  • People who have kidney stones and gout should avoid brewer’s yeast (because of its high purine content) [108].
  • Brewer’s yeast may worsen symptoms in people with eczema [109].
  • Some brands of brewer’s yeast contain gluten and should be avoided in celiac disease patients [110].

Drug and Gene Interactions

  • Brewer’s yeast may interact with diabetes medications and lead to low blood sugar [111].
  • Brewer’s yeast has large amounts of tyramine, which can interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and cause very high blood pressure [112].
  • People with MTHFR polymorphisms (MTHFR C677T and A1298C) have a reduced ability to process folic acid completely and thus should avoid brewer’s yeast fortified with synthetic folic acid [113, 114].
  • People with mutations in the Dectin-1, STAT 1, STAT 3, TLR4, and CARD9 genes may want to avoid brewer’s yeast because these variants are associated with impaired immunity and increased risk of fungal and yeast infections [115, 116, 117].
  • Genetic variants in the mannan-binding lectin (MBL) gene can lead to mannose-binding lectin deficiency, which is associated with higher anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae antibody(ASCA) levels in Crohn’s disease patients [118, 119].

How to Take Brewer’s Yeast

Brewer’s and nutritional yeasts are available in powder, liquid, or tablet form.

The average adult dosage for brewer’s yeast is one to two tablespoons daily.

The powder form is usually mixed with water. You can also mix it into other beverages, such as juice, or add it to your smoothies. Have in mind that it’ll add a slightly bitter flavor to the drink. Some aren’t fans of the bitter aroma, but others enjoy it. It really comes down to experimenting with the flavors and finding the combination you like best.

Also, be sure to check the quality of the powder or tablets you’re buying. The powders are generally cheaper, but you want to go for high-quality ones that don’t contain additives or added sugars.

Beware of Brewer’s Yeast With Gluten (if sensitive)

Well, it turns out that the first one I tried by Now Foods tasted horribly bad. It’s on par with spirulina, but not as bad as NAC and Resveratrol. If only all supplements tasted as good as inositol and NAG….

I got really tired from it for a few hours, but afterwards got a lot of energy. It had a very intense, but negative, cognitive effect.

Next, I tried the Swanson brand. It tasted really good, as opposed to the Now Foods brand. But I still got tired after trying it.

After some research, I realized that both the Now Food and Swanson brand were grown on Barley, which may have some gluten in it.

I then discovered that the Lewis Labs and Blue Bonnet Brewer’s Yeast were both grown on beets, not barley. They were gluten-free.

After trying both products, there was no fatigue from either of them, which indicated that gluten was indeed the problem.

The Lewis Labs product tastes better than the Blue Bonnet product. It tastes like honey nut Cheerios when mixed with water and a tablespoon of honey.

Lewis Labs Brewer’s Yeast will be included into my regimen – probably 30g a day.

User Experiences

Some users report a boost in energy levels with brewer’s yeast:

“It gives me a lot of energy and makes me feel mentally alert.” [120].

“Increased my energy levels”.

“I took this to get more energy during my 4th pregnancy. Boy did I notice an improvement !”

Some individuals experience an increase in milk supply with brewer’s yeast:

“I’ve been using this to boost my milk supply since giving birth to my son in August. A friend made me lactation cookies with this in them, and I noticed a difference right away.” [121].

“I used my brewer’s yeast to make lactation cookies and they definitely worked. Five stars.” [121].

Many users appreciate the taste of nutritional yeast :

“This yeast is veeeery yummy.. ” [122].

“It’s good. Even in salads” [122].

The main side effects users experience from brewer’s yeast is bloating and gas:

“Just wondering if anyone using brewers yeast for their milk supply has had any bloating from it. I’ve been putting a teaspoon and a half in my green smoothies for over a month now but am starting to look like I have a beer belly!! LOL “.

Buy Brewer’s and Nutritional Yeasts

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Take-Away:

Brewer’s yeast is a nutrient-rich food that can support your immune system, boost your energy levels, and lower your risk of some chronic diseases. Plus, it has anti-aging properties and feeds the good bacteria in your gut.

This yeast is high in B vitamins, minerals, pre- and probiotics, and other healthful active compounds. Its characteristic bitter flavor can give your smoothies or juice a unique note. If you’re not a big fan of bitter aromas, go for the pill form.

Note that some brewer’s yeast products contain gluten. If you’re sensitive to gluten, search for gluten-free brewer’s yeast, such as the type grown on beets.

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