Brewer’s yeast is the dried, pulverized cells of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of fungus, and is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, protein (providing all essential amino acids), and minerals, including a biologically active form of chromium known as glucose tolerance factor (GTF). Brewer’s yeast is usually a by-product of the brewing industry and should not be confused with nutritional yeast or torula yeast, which are low in chromium.
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This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Type 2 Diabetes
|9 grams per day||Chromium-rich brewer’s yeast has been shown to be useful in treating type 2 diabetes in several ways, including by improving glucose tolerance.|
Type 2 Diabetes
9 grams per day
Medical reports dating back to 1853, as well as modern research, indicate that chromium-rich brewer’s yeast (9 grams per day) can be useful in treating type 2 diabetes.1 , 2 In recent years, chromium has been shown to improve glucose levels and related variables in people with glucose intolerance and type 2, gestational, and steroid-induced diabetes.3 , 4 Improved glucose tolerance with lower or similar levels of insulin have been reported in more than ten trials of chromium supplementation in people with varying degrees of glucose intolerance.5 Chromium supplements improve glucose tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes,6 apparently by increasing sensitivity to insulin.7 Chromium improves the processing of glucose in people with prediabetic glucose intolerance and in women with diabetes associated with pregnancy.8 , 9 Chromium even helps healthy people,10 although one such report found chromium useful only when accompanied by 100 mg of niacin per day.11 Chromium may also lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (risk factors in heart disease).12 , 13
A few trials have reported no beneficial effects from chromium supplementation.14 , 15 , 16 All of these trials used 200 mcg or less of supplemental chromium, which is often not adequate for people with diabetes, especially if it is in a form that is poorly absorbed. The typical amount of chromium used in research trials is 200 mcg per day, although as much as 1,000 mcg per day has been used.17 Many doctors recommend up to 1,000 mcg per day for people with diabetes.18
Supplementation with chromium or brewer’s yeast could potentially enhance the effects of drugs used for diabetes (e.g., insulin or other blood sugar-lowering agents) and possibly lead to hypoglycemia. Therefore, people with diabetes taking these medications should supplement with chromium or brewer’s yeast only under the supervision of a doctor.
|Three capsulesor tablets three times per day||Supplementing with brewer’s yeast has been shown to improve immune function and change the flora living in the intestine, and may relieve infectious diarrhea.|
Three capsulesor tablets three times per day
Brewer’s yeast supplementation has been shown to alter immune function and the flora living in the intestine, and may relieve infectious diarrhea. Three capsules or tablets of brewer’s yeast three times per day for two weeks was reported to improve three cases of infectious diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile.19 Animal research has confirmed that brewer’s yeast helps fight this unfriendly bacterium.20 (Note that real brewer’s yeast is not identical to nutritional, or torula, yeast and that when asking for “brewer’s yeast” in health food stores, people are often directed toward these other products. Real brewer’s yeast is bitter, whereas other health food store yeasts have a more pleasant taste.)
How It Works
How to Use It
Brewer’s yeast is often taken as a powder, or as tablets or capsules. High-quality brewer’s yeast powder or flakes contain as much as 60 mcg of chromium per tablespoon (15 grams). When doctors recommend brewer’s yeast, they will often suggest 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 grams) of this high-potency bulk product per day. Remember, if it is not bitter, it is not likely to be real brewer’s yeast and therefore will not contain biologically active chromium. In addition, “primary grown” yeast (i.e., that grown specifically for harvest, as opposed to that recovered in the brewing process) may not contain GTF.
Where to Find It
Brewer’s yeast, which has a very bitter taste, is recovered after being used in the beer-brewing process. Brewer’s yeast can also be grown specifically for harvest as a nutritional supplement. “De-bittered” yeast is also available, though most yeast sold in health food stores that does not taste bitter is not real brewer’s yeast.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Because it contains a highly biologically active form of chromium, supplementation with brewer’s yeast could potentially enhance the effects of drugs for diabetes (e.g., insulin or other blood sugar-lowering agents) and possibly lead to hypoglycemia. Therefore, people with diabetes taking these medications should supplement with chromium or brewer’s yeast only under the supervision of a doctor.
Interactions with Medicines
Certain medicines interact with this supplement.
|Some medicines may increase the need for this supplement.|
|Some medicines interact with this supplement, so they should not be taken together.|
|Some interactions between this supplement and certain medicines require more explanation. Click the link to see details.|
Note: The following list only includes the generic or class name of a medicine. To find a specific brand name, use the Medicines Index.
Saccharomyces boulardii is registered in Europe under the name Saccharomyces cerevisiae, though the manufacturer states that S. boulardii is not the same as brewer’s yeast (S. cerevisiae). There is a case report of a person with severely impaired immune function who, after receiving treatment with S. boulardii, developed an invasive fungal infection identified as S. cerevisiae. People with severe impairment of the immune system should therefore not take S. boulardii unless supervised by a doctor.
1. Herepath WB. Journal Provincial Med Surg Soc 1854:374.
2. Offenbacher EG, Pi-Sunyer FX. Beneficial effect of chromium-rich yeast on glucose tolerance and blood lipids in elderly subjects. Diabetes 1980;29:919–25.
3. Anderson RA. Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes. Diabetes Metab 2000;26:22–7 [review].
4. Martin J, Wang ZQ, Zhang XH, et al. Chromium picolinate supplementation attenuates body weight gain and increases insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2006;29:1826–32.
5. Anderson RA. Chromium, glucose intolerance and diabetes. J Am Coll Nutr 1998;17:548–55 [review].
6. Evans GW. The effect of chromium picolinate on insulin controlled parameters in humans. Int J Biosocial Med Res 1989;11:163–80.
7. Gaby AR, Wright JV. Diabetes. In Nutritional Therapy in Medical Practice: Reference Manual and Study Guide. Kent, WA: 1996, 54–64 [review].
8. Anderson RA, Polansky MM, Bryden NA, Canary JJ. Supplemental-chromium effects on glucose, insulin, glucagon, and urinary chromium losses in subjects consuming controlled low-chromium diets. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;54:909–16.
9. Jovanovic L, Gutierrez M, Peterson CM. Chromium supplementation for women with gestational diabetes. J Trace Elem Exptl Med 1999;12:91–8.
10. Anderson RA, Polansky MM, Bryden NA, et al. Chromium supplementation of human subjects: effects on glucose, insulin, and lipid variables. Metabolism 1983;32:894–9.
11. Urberg M, Zemel MB. Evidence for synergism between chromium and nicotinic acid in the control of glucose tolerance in elderly humans. Metabolism 1987;36:896–9.
12. Lee NA, Reasner CA. Beneficial effect of chromium supplementation on serum triglyceride levels in NIDDM. Diabetes Care 1994;17:1449–52.
13. Hermann J, Chung H, Arquitt A, et al. Effects of chromium or copper supplementation on plasma lipids, plasma glucose and serum insulin in adults over age fifty. J Nutr Elderly 1998;18:27–45.
14. Sherman L, Glennon JA, Brech WJ, et al. Failure of trivalent chromium to improve hyperglycemia in diabetes mellitus. Metabolism 1968;17:439–42.
15. Rabinowitz MB, Gonick HC, Levin SR, Davidson MB. Effects of chromium and yeast supplements on carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic men. Diabetes Care 1983;6:319–27.
16. Uusitupa MI, Kumpulainen JT, Voutilainen E, et al. Effect of inorganic chromium supplementation on glucose tolerance, insulin response, and serum lipids in noninsulin-dependent diabetics. Am J Clin Nutr 1983;38:404–10.
17. Anderson RA, Cheng N, Bryden NA, et al. Elevated intakes of supplemental chromium improve glucose and insulin variables in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes 1997;46:1786–91.
18. Gaby AR, Wright JV. Nutritional protocols: diabetes mellitus. In Nutritional Therapy in Medical Practice: Protocols and Supporting Information. Kent, WA: 1996, 10.
19. 23. Schellenberg D, Bonington A, Champion C, et al. Treatment of *Clostridium difficile* diarrhea with brewer’s yeast. *Lancet* 1994;343:171–2 [letter].
20. Izadnia F, Wong CT, Kocoshis SA. Brewer’s yeast and *Saccharomyces boulardii* both attenuate Clostridium difficile-induced colonic secretion in the rat. *Dig Dis Sci* 1998;43:2055–60.
21. Bassetti S, Frei R, Zimmerli W. Fungemia with Saccharomyces cerevisiae after treatment with Saccharomyces boulardii. Am J Med 1998;105:71–2.
Last Review: 05-11-2011
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