Paavo Airola - Let's Live - September 1976Index

Controversial Yeast: Super Nutrition Or Dangerous Fad-Food?

Recently, there has been a growing number of articles, lectures, trade publicity material and word of mouth rumors downgrading the value of brewer's yeast and other forms of nutritional yeasts in health-building and disease-preventing diets. As often is the case, the anti-yeast propaganda seems to come from those promoting some other food or supplement which is either nutritionally or therapeutically competitive with yeast.

Also, I have noticed that yeast is being maligned mostly by authorities in fields other than nutrition, who, nonetheless, pose as experts on the nutritional value of yeast. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Those who have distinguished themselves in the recent past by questioning or downgrading the value of yeast as a valuable supplement in human nutrition have, as a rule, only a fragmented knowledge of the complex sciences of nutrition and biochemistry.

Let's LIVE Magazine has been consistent throughout its long history in recommending brewer's yeast and specially grown nutritional yeasts as exceptionally valuable additions to the Optimum Diet. I have stated repeatedly in articles, books, and lectures that I consider brewer's yeast to be the most valuable supplementary food of all.

This article was prompted by numerous inquiries by our readers who are alarmed and concerned by the persistent anti-yeast propaganda. So let's objectively analyze the pros and cons of yeast as a food supplement. My qualifications to do it objectively are based on the fact that I have no personal interest in taking either side of the issue, since I am not connected in any way with the manufacturing, sale, or promotion of this product or any other health food, vitamin, or supplement, for that matter.

What Is Brewer's Yeast?

Brewer's yeast is a plant product. The yeast plant is the smallest of all cultivated plants - about 1/4,000th of an inch in diameter, or about the microscopic size of a human blood corpuscle. Yeast was originally a byproduct of the brewing industry - hence its name. Today, however, as the nutritional potential of yeast is more and more recognized, it is also grown specifically for human consumption, and the cultivation of yeast has developed into a large industry.

The cultivation and harvesting of the yeast plant is now done under controlled conditions where both the temperature and the composition of the seedbed where yeast is grown are regulated to produce the desirable content of vitamins, proteins, and minerals in the final product. The yeast is grown in large vats, then is dried at low temperatures so that none of the nutritional value is lost.

Finally, it is pulverized and made into a powdered, flaked, or tableted form. There are special advantages to each of these forms. Powder is more concentrated and most suitable for mixing with liquids, such as juices, mixed drinks, or shakes, or adding to foods in cooking. Flakes are better tasting and are favored for sprinkling on other foods. Tablets are more convenient for travelers and also preferred by those who do not particularly like the taste of brewer's yeast. But, while yeast would undoubtedly fail in a food taste contest, it would emerge as an indisputable winner in any food value contest!

Different Kinds Of Yeast

One factor that has contributed to the current confusion and controversy over yeast is the fact that there are many different kinds of yeast on the market. Numerous Let's LIVE readers, enthused by my glowing superlatives about brewer's yeast, wrote to me saying that their health food store doesn't carry "brewer's" yeast, only several other kinds of "nutritional'.' or "primary" yeasts.

Spurred by the original recognition of brewer's yeast as a valuable nutritional supplement, the enterprising food manufacturers have developed many ways of growing yeast plants that do not include hops and barley malt used in the production of brewer's yeast. They have learned that food yeast can be grown on many different cultures, such as molasses, wood pulp, whey (a highly nutritious leftover of the cheese making industry), and even on ethyl alcohol derived from petroleum refining.

The way a layman can distinguish between brewer's yeast and these other types of yeasts is that: 1) Only true brewer's yeast can be labeled as brewer's yeast; 2) Other types of yeasts are always referred to as "primary" yeast, "food" yeast, or "nutritional" yeast; 3) Occasionally, these primary (specifically grown for food) yeasts are labeled as "brewer's type yeast", which is somewhat confusing, but still a clear admission that it is not real brewer's yeast.

I am constantly asked: Are these primary or food yeasts inferior, just or better than brewer's yeast? The answer is: All nutritional yeasts are good food supplements. I cannot mention the brands, of course, but if you wish to be sure when you buy, read the labels and/or ask the health food store attendant and see that the yeast you consider buying is grown on either molasses, or whey, as some of the better alternatives. Although all nutritional yeasts have an approximately similar content as far as protein or B vitamins is concerned, I personally prefer genuine brewer's yeast, mainly because it is the best natural source of two very important trace minerals - selenium and chromium - as I will report later in the article. These minerals are either missing or are present in much lower potencies in primary grown yeasts.

Super Protein Food

Brewer's yeast contains 40-50% protein - more protein than in any other common food. Just one tablespoon of brewer's yeast (about 10 grams) supplies between 4 and 5 grams of protein, depending upon how it was cultured. And, contrary to what is true with some other plant foods, the protein in brewer's yeast is of extremely high biological value - a so-called complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. Yeast protein compares favorably with that in meat, milk, fish, eggs, and nuts in its assimilability and biological quality. The daily intake of three or four tablespoons of brewer's yeast powder will supply a large portion of your daily protein requirement. For vegetarians, brewer's yeast supplementation will help to solve the dilemma of getting enough high-quality proteins from exclusively vegetable sources. For meat eaters, eating brewer's yeast regularly will enable them to cut down on meat, since the excess of meat in the diet has now been singled out by reliable studies as a contributing factor in the development of some of our most dreaded diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Nature's Vitamin Factory

In addition to being a fabulous protein food, yeast is also a superior natural source of B vitamins - not just one or two of the Bs, but all the 25 or so of the B vitamins, co-vitamins, and related factors that make up the B complex.

Here is a short table to show you the tremendous amounts (per 100 grams) of two major B vitamins that brewer's yeast contains as compared to other rich natural sources of these vitamins:1

Food B1 B2
Lean pork750200
Dried lima beans600790
Brewer's yeast8,0004,700

Brewer's yeast is also a good source of niacin, pyridoxine (B6), pantothenic acid, choline, inositol, folic acid, and even B12. There are some brewer's yeast brands sold in health food stores that are fortified with extra B12. Brewer's yeast contains about 3 times as much niacin as beef liver.

To give you some practical idea of how yeast can improve your nutrition, here's what just one large tablespoon of food yeast (10 grams) will supply in terms of recommended daily dietary allowances for adults: 2

B3 (niacin)20%

B vitamins are extremely important to health. The lack of one or several B-complex vitamins in the diet may result in many serious health disorders. The lack of B1 may cause irritability, depression, personality changes, skin diseases, hives, muscular weakness, a condition known as beri-beri, premature ageing, digestive disorders, edema, and diabetes. Deficiency of B2 can produce bloodshot eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, sores around the mouth and tongue, oily skin, premature wrinkles, and vaginal itching. B3 is vital for effective circulation and the healthy function of the nervous system. Deficiency of B3 may lead to mental disturbances, mental dullness, nervousness, digestive disorders, and insomnia. Taking three or four tablespoons of brewer's yeast daily will assure that your diet will contain all the above-mentioned B vitamins in the amounts you need.

To give you some additional idea of the rich nutrient value of brewer's yeast, here are some comparisons. One tablespoon of brewer's yeast contains:

Brewer's yeast is also a good source of minerals. Calcium, iron, and potassium are well-represented. It is true, as yeast-degraders emphasize, that the phosphorus-calcium ratio in yeast is not ideal - too much phosphorus as compared to calcium. This imbalance can be (and should be) easily corrected by taking extra calcium supplement, such as calcium lactate, every time yeast is taken. Some yeasts sold in health food stores are fortified with added calcium to correct this imbalance and make yeast an even more fabulous food.

Brewer's Yeast - Prime Selenium Source

Selenium, an obscure dietary trace element, has suddenly come forth as a miracle health-promoting and disease corrective substance. Like vitamin E, selenium is an anti-oxidant, protecting fatty substances in the body from damage by oxidation. It is known to have a sparing effect on vitamin E. In fact, it has been suggested by some researchers that vitamin E is not effectively used by the body without selenium. It is considered to be a protective factor against cancer and known to promote longevity. 3 4 The deficiency of selenium in the diet is considered by a no lesser authority than Dr. Raymond J. Shamberger to be a contributing cause to heart disease and cardiovascular deaths. Selenium increases the body's defenses against any stress and disease, especially against all infections, by boosting the body's immunological response.

As we are beginning to realize the importance of selenium in our diets, we are also made aware that the amounts of available dietary selenium have been diminishing as our diets consist more and more of processed and refined foods. Selenium is present in sea foods, milk, eggs, whole grains, mushrooms, kelp, and garlic. But, by far the best source of selenium is brewer's yeast. The other food yeasts are lower in this important trace element.

But, perhaps the most important fact is not the yeast's high content of this wonderful trace mineral, but the safety and biopotency of the selenium as it appears in yeast. Selenium in brewer's yeast is totally harmless, 100% natural, and biologically useable and effective. Selenium in yeast is easily absorbed and put to immediate work for many vital functions in your body.

Brewer's Yeast For Diabetes And Hypoglycemia

Recent studies have focused our attention on another obscure trace element that is abundant in brewer's yeast - chromium. It has been found that chromium is essential for effective sugar metabolism in the body. 5 Diabetes, faulty sugar metabolism, has been traditionally believed to be caused by an inadequate supply of "sugar destroying" insulin, presumably being a result of a defective or malfunctioning pancreas.

Now, recent studies suggest that this explanation was too simplistic. Namely, studies have shown that many diabetics produce normal levels of insulin, yet their sugar levels are not properly controlled. Researchers have found that such people usually suffer from a chromium deficiency. They concluded that chromium is needed for proper insulin function. 6

Given small amounts of chromium (up to 150 mcg. of trivalent - natural, biologically effective chromium) daily, as many as 50% of patients with faulty glucose metabolism were restored to normal glucose tolerance.

There are, of course, many other dietary factors associated with the development of diabetes, such as vitamin B6 deficiency, an exhausted pancreas due to an excess of refined carbohydrates in the diet (too much sugar and white flour), abnormal function of adrenal glands, etc. But chromium deficiency is definitely related to a large percentage of diabetic symptoms. Trace mineral researchers agree that there is a widespread chromium deficiency in our country - mostly caused by processed, mineral stripped foods and depleted soils. No wonder diabetes is on the increase.

Chromium is also needed for the synthesis of many enzymes and hormones. It is essential for the synthesis of heart protein and is important in cholesterol metabolism. The severe deficiency of chromium may not only contribute to the development of diabetes, but also of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, as well as hardening of the arteries. Natural chromium, as it is present in natural foods, is associated with Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF) which is believed to be responsible for its acknowledged therapeutic property. This factor is present in whole grains, mushrooms, liver, raw cane sugar, and hard, mineralized water, but by far the best natural source of chromium is brewer's yeast. Natural chromium, as it is present in yeast, is not only perfectly safe, but also is well assimilated and used by the body.

When we realize that in the majority of older people in the United States, glucose tolerance is impaired, it becomes clear that if we wish to enjoy our older years in good health, we should avail ourselves of the tremendous safeguard that brewer's yeast can give us.

Brewer's Yeast, Nucleic Acids, And Longevity

There are many theories on aging. "Some of them have already died of old age," as one of the leading experts on aging, Dr. Hans J. Kugler, pointed out. The one theory that has been continuously adding credibility to its name is the nucleic acid theory. Dr. Benjamin S. Frank and Dr. Kugler are two foremost specialists in aging research. Both scientists have conducted controlled and documented studies on the effect of nucleic acids on the aging processes. Dr. Kugler fed one group of animals a special diet which contained a large percentage of brewer's yeast (10% by weight). He achieved an average life extension of 30-40%. Compared to the controls, the yeast-fed animals also looked younger, were more active, and their hair was shinier. 9

Very remarkable recent studies show that nucleic acids have an ability to retard the onset of degenerative diseases, turn back the clock, recharge the batteries of your cells, and give you the look and feel of youth. Nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, are the normal cellular components which control heredity and the body's ability of reproducing its inherited patterns. For example, if the skin on the back of your hand becomes shiny and wrinkled, spotted or brittle, the reason for this is that the cells which contain the blueprint for the formation of the skin on your hands are tired and worn-out and no longer able to maintain the pattern they inherited. Dr. Frank's studies show that by supplementing your diet with enough viable nucleic acids and other metabolites that increase the assimilation, your body's DNA and RNA can renew themselves and keep their genetic patterns as clear and sharp as a new etching. Thus, symptoms of old age can be prevented and/or postponed for several decades. 10

Above all other foods, brewer's yeast is the supreme source of high quality nucleic acids. Only two to three tablespoons of yeast a day will supply you with a sufficient amount of nucleic acids to give you the greatest possible, scientifically proven, assurance that you are actually preventing the symptoms of premature aging and senility and are well on the way to enjoying the appearance, the vigor, and the feel of youth as long as you live.

How To Take Yeast

I trust that by now the new readers of Let's LIVE are beginning to grasp the tremendous health-building and disease-and aging-preventing potential of brewer's yeast, and are anxious to rush to the nearest health food store for it. The response of some old-timers, the veteran health fooders, will probably be as follows:

"Sure! I believe you! But I just can't stand the taste of it, and, what's worse, it gives me terrible gas!"

Here's some advice, based on my life-long experience and observation, that will help you to overcome the problems of unpalatability and gas:

  1. Take brewer's yeast only on an empty stomach - never with meals. Three hours after a meal, one hour before a meal, or just before retiring, are the best times.
  2. Don't take more than one tablespoon of yeast powder at a time. You may take it two or three times a day, however.
  3. Mix brewer's yeast powder or flakes with fresh, sour fruit juice. Best juices are grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, or lemon juice. One tablespoon of brewer's yeast to one-half to one glass of juice. Juice can be diluted with water, especially lemon juice. If fresh juices are unavailable, canned pineapple or grapefruit juices can be substituted. Also, apple cider vinegar can be used: 1 tbsp. vinegar per glass of water.
  4. Don't drink the mixture, but eat it with a spoon or take small swallows and "chew", so it will be properly salivated.
  5. If you are over 45, it is very likely that your own hydrochloric acid secretion is slowed down. Brewer's yeast, being a high-protein food, needs lots of hydrochloric acid for effective and gas-free digestion. If, after observing the first four rules mentioned above you are still troubled with gas, you'll know that the hydrochloric acid level in your stomach is insufficient. In that case, take one or two tablets of Betaine Hydrochloric Acid each time you take yeast. HCL tablets (which are sold in most health food stores) should be taken with a half glass of water immediately after taking yeast.
  6. Some people find the taste of brewer's yeast unpalatable. If you are one of them, take yeast in a tablet form. About 15 tablets a day will compare to approximately two tablespoons of powder. Yeast can also be mixed with other foods that will mask its taste - prepared dishes, bread dough, cereals, or yogurt. Just choose the way it is most palatable to you.

Other Tips On Yeast

Baker's yeast

Do not confuse the brewer's and nutritional yeasts that I recommend with baker's yeast! In brewer's and other food yeasts, the growth of live yeast plants has been arrested by heating, so they cannot grow and multiply in your intestines, but are digested as food. Baker's yeast, on the other hand, is a live substance, containing vigorous live yeast plants, which are not always destroyed by digestive juices in the stomach, but will pass into the intestines, where they may continue growing, with deleterious results. They need huge amounts of B vitamins for their growth, and may rob your body of its own stores of these vitamins. The moral: never substitute baker's yeast that is sold in supermarkets (whether it is in a cake form, or as dried granules in little packages) for a nutritional yeast. Any yeast that can be used in baking to raise dough, should not be eaten raw - that is, it should be used only in baking.

Phosphorus-calcium ratio

Since brewer's yeast has more phosphorus than calcium, it would be wise to take an extra calcium supplement when taking yeast to achieve a better mineral balance. One calcium tablet each time you take yeast will suffice.

Purine-rich yeast

Being a high-protein and high-nucleic acid food, brewer's yeast is a high acid and high-purine-forming food. Those who suffer from or are predisposed to arthritis and gout may notice a worsening of the symptoms of these conditions when taking large doses of yeast. Such individuals should take only small amounts of yeast at a time and make sure that their diet otherwise is as alkaline as possible and free from purine-rich foods, such as meat, especially organ meats, breads, etc.

Naturalness, Stability, And Purity of Yeast

In this age of plastic, synthetic, manmade, overprocessed, chemicalized, adulterated, and denatured foods, it is good to know that there is nothing unnatural or synthetic about brewer's yeast. Yeast has been an item of food since very early times. Although the extent of its nutritional riches was discovered only recently, many "primitive" people, whose diets included fermented foods, used the fermentation by-product, yeast, as an addition to their diets.

Brewer's yeast is one super food that is pure, 100% natural, and very stable. It stores practically indefinitely without any preservatives. It never turns rancid, even if stored without refrigeration. It is one food that does not need excessive processing, additives, preservatives, stabilizers, artificial flavors or colorings, or any other man-made "improvements". Yeast is a natural!


On the basis of the review of the nutritional, therapeutic, and rejuvenative properties of yeast presented in this article, the conclusion seems to be clear:

Any way you look at it, brewer's yeast is a super-nutritious food, and a fabulous supplement to anybody's diet.

Do not be confused by the downgrading statements of the "experts" who try to malign brewer's yeast or food yeast. Try to find out the underlying reasons for their anti-yeast campaign. Are they trying to sell you something else? Are they qualified as reliable authorities on nutrition?

Yeast is a storehouse of known vital nutrients with remarkable curative, preventive, and rejuvenative properties. We can almost bet that, when a new B-complex vitamin is discovered, or some trace mineral that turns out to be extremely important to human nutrition, it will be found in brewer's yeast.

When the present excitement over the tremendous importance of selenium, chromium, and nucleic acids broke out, those of us who have been using various kinds of yeast for years as a part of our regular diet, were pleased to know that we have been getting a plentiful amount of these miracle substances all along. We are only beginning to appreciate the many benefits we can derive from the regular use of this marvelous, super-nutritious, natural wonder food.


  1. Rodale, J.I. and staff, The Complete Book of Food and Nutrition, Rodale Books, Inc., Emmaus, Pa., 1961.
  2. "The Yeasts", Vol. 3, Academic Press, 1970.
  3. McCullagh, J.D., "Selenium, The Fantastic Bonus in Brewers Yeast", Prevention, July, 1975.
  4. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May, 1974.
  5. Shamberger, Raymond J., Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, June, 1971.
  6. Mertz, W., and Schwarz, K., American Journal of Physiology, 196:614, 1959.
  7. Hambridge, K. Michael, Medical World News, May 19, 1972.
  8. Kugler, Hans J., "A Model For Longer, More Active Life", Prevention, December, 1975.
  9. Kugler, Hans J., Slowing Down The Aging Process, Pyramid, 1973.
  10. Frank, Benjamin 8., Nucleic Acid Therapy in Aging and Degenerative Disease, Psychological Library, New York, 1969, revised 1974.