Brewer’s yeast, which was initially a byproduct of the brewing industry, is one of the richest sources of protein, B vitamins and many minerals. Known scientifically as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, brewer’s yeast is available as a supplement in powder, tablet and flake forms.
Normally, yeast cells are so active that they can multiply millions of times within a few hours. But the brewer’s yeast found in food supplements is dried, inactive and essentially “dead.” Therefore, it cannot multiply after it is eaten.
When yeast is grown for human consumption, it may be called “primary yeast,” according to Beatrice Trum Hunter in Brewer’s Yeast, Wheat Germ and Other High Power Foods. The word “debitered” listed on the label means that after the dried yeast has been washed free of beer, it is treated to eliminate its bitterness and make it more palatable.
Brewer’s yeast contains plenty of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and vitamin B3.
Brewer’s yeast is also a reliable source of chromium, which, as part of a molecule called the glucose tolerance factor (GTF), helps insulin to metabolize glucose. Diets high in refined foods, which often are stripped of their chromium, can lead to difficulties with glucose and the eventual development of diabetes or hypoglycemia.
“Supplements of greater than 200 micrograms of chromium daily may provide some improvement for glucose tolerance in adult diabetics,” wrote Patrick Quillin, Ph. D., R.D., in Healing Nutrients. “Six adult diabetics were given brewer’s yeast supplements, and their blood glucose and insulin levels were monitored. The chromium-rich brewer’s yeast improved insulin sensitivity in all six subjects as demonstrated by lower fasting blood glucose and lower insulin requirements.”
In another study, 43 diabetic men received either inorganic chromium, brewer’s yeast with GTF, brewer’s yeast without GTF, or a placebo in a double-blind format, according to Dr. Quillin. After four months of treatment, the group consuming brewer’s yeast with chromium showed improved insulin output.
“Something in GTF or the chromium that is found in GTF, or some other mysterious factor in brewer’s yeast, is able to improve glucose tolerance in many people,” Dr. Quillin said. “Researchers find that some people are not able to make enough of their own GTF from dietary chromium. For some people, GTF may be an essential vitamin, with deficiency symptoms surfacing as [low blood sugar], lethargy, or adult-onset diabetes.”
Dr. Quillin said brewer’s yeast, liver and intestinal flora produce lipoic acid, which is critical in the burning of carbohydrates, another reason that brewer’s yeast is so beneficial to those with glucose problems.
In a study conducted by J. Clint Elwood, Ph. D., professor of biochemistry at the State University of New York and Health Science Center in Syracuse, subjects who took approximately two tablespoons of chromium-rich brewer’s yeast each day for eight weeks lowered their cholesterol significantly. The average decrease was 10 percent, but some of the volunteers had considerably larger drops. For example, cholesterol levels for some went from more than 300 to less than 250, which at the time was considered normal.
“The higher the cholesterol level, the better the response was to the brewer’s yeast,” said Dr. Elwood. “But what interested us most was that what we consider to be normal cholesterol levels could also be lowered with brewer’s yeast. We still don’t know the best level of cholesterol for optimum health.”
Stephen E. Langer, M.D., author of Solved: The Riddle of Illness, advises hypothyroid patients to take vitamin B-rich brewer’s yeast and thyroid supplements, since, according to the theory of Murray Israel, M.D., a pioneer in thyroidology, B vitamins better equip the body to deal with outside hormones. “Oxidation is speeded up by the thyroid hormones, and the B vitamins are essential to efficient transport of oxygen inside the cells. Originally, Dr. Barnes [the late Broda Barnes, M.D.] used thyroid hormones alone — with success — but, impressed by Dr. Israel’s results, he added brewer’s yeast to his treatment.”
Since brewer’s yeast is such a rich source of protein, B vitamins and minerals, the supplement is useful in improving the health patients with a variety of disorders. For those who have difficulty acquiring a taste for brewer’s yeast, health food stores offer a debitered version, along with tablets and flakes.
To ensure better health for your family, slip some brewer’s yeast into soups, hot cereals and salads. It’s an easy way to round out a healthy diet.
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