A look at the potential benefits of brewer's yeast, particularly as a treatment for high cholesterol.
Disclaimer: This article isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anyone’s condition. You should check with your doctor before taking brewer’s yeast for cholesterol.
About Brewer’s Yeast
People with high cholesterol are interested in the possibility that brewer’s yeast may be a useful addition to their cholesterol management regimen.
Aside from its use in the production of beer, brewer’s yeast can be used as a dietary supplement, particularly because of its high content of chromium, protein, selenium, and B-complex vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, and B9 – not B12). It is made from the one-celled fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
It is believed, based on some studies, that brewer’s yeast may help lower your “bad” cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and triglycerides, while raising your “good” cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.
Brewer’s Yeast For Cholesterol
Science research dating back decades has attempted to show a connection between consumption of brewer’s yeast and the improvement of cholesterol levels. While some studies have shown positive results, not all studies have shown a link between ingestion of brewer’s yeast and reduced cholesterol (See the extensive list of studies cited by the University of Maryland link below).
A few studies suggest that brewer’s yeast may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Researchers aren’t sure whether that is due to the chromium in brewer’s yeast or another substance, and not all studies have found positive results.
Other Brewer’s Yeast Benefits
WebMD provides a list of possible brewer’s yeast benefits, potential side effects, and known interactions. However, they claim that evidence correlating brewer’s yeast with cholesterol reduction is lacking.
Aside from the potential of lowering cholesterol, brewer’s yeast has been used and studied for the following purposes:
- Common cold
- Diabetes – The chromium in brewer’s yeast may lower blood sugar levels which improves glucose tolerance, reducing insulin requirements.
- PMS – WebMD states brewer’s yeast is “possibly effective” for PMS when taken with vitamins and minerals.
The New York University Langone Medical Center also maintains an informative webpage on the potential benefits of brewer’s yeast.
Possible Side Effects
- Allergic reaction – Particularly in those sensitive to yeast.
- Exacerbation of Crohn’s disease
- Stomach discomfort
Brewer’s yeast may interact with Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s) taken for depression and might interact with medications used for fungal infections. It is also not recommended for children or nursing mothers.
The recommended dosage for cholesterol benefits is 1 to 2 tablespoons per day, added to food or dissolved in water. Although tablets are available, the powdered form appears to be the preference for most people. This could be in part because a “serving size” of 500mg tablets of brewer’s yeast is typically 8 tablets. Taking 8 to 16 tablets a day is probably undesirable for most people.
Bitter Taste and Beer Odor
Brewer’s yeast has a bitter taste, so mixing it with food or drink may not be palatable for everyone. If you wish to use the powdered form, you may want to mix it with something that has a strong flavor to offset the bitter taste. Some manufacturers offer “debittered” brewer’s yeast which reduces the bitterness, but this may also remove some nutritional value. There is also a beer odor to brewer’s yeast which may be unpleasant to some people. For those unable to handle the bitter taste or beer smell, tablets may be preferable.
Where Can I Find Brewer’s Yeast?
Brewer’s yeast can easily be found online and in health stores. Most brands only cost about $10 to $20. We checked at a local GNC, and found both powder and 500 mg tablets on the shelf.
Brewer’s yeast is safe for most people, and may provide some medical benefits, including a possible reduction in cholesterol. After checking with your doctor, you may want to consider adding it to your daily cholesterol reduction regimen to see how it works for you. Keep in mind that the taste and smell are not for everyone.
Updated January 10, 2015
Originally published May 2013