Brewer's yeast, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a type of yeast that typically grows on hops and is used to make beer. A byproduct of the fermentation process, brewer's yeast is available in most health food stores and has a slightly bitter flavor. Brewer's yeast contains a variety of important nutrients and offers a range of potential health benefits.
Brewer's yeast provides one of the highest quality and most easily absorbable forms of chromium of any food, according to Cox Health. Chromium is a trace mineral that assists in the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats for energy. Brewer's yeast provides about 4.7 micrograms of chromium per gram. A study published in the July 2011 issue of the "Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology" found that chromium exerted beneficial effects on blood sugar and cholesterol levels in individuals recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Participants consumed 9 grams of brewer's yeast per day for 40 days. Results showed a 42 percent reduction in fasting blood sugar levels and a 28 percent drop in hemoglobin A1c, or HbA1c, a measure of average blood sugar over a 3-month period. Levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the bad form of cholesterol, were also reduced by 17 percent.
Some forms of cancer may be prevented by brewer's yeast, according to a cell culture study published in the June 2012 issue of the journal "Cytotechnology." In the study, beta-glucan, a polysaccharide molecule found in brewer's yeast, protected against DNA damage from ultraviolet light. In a study published in the September 2012 issue of the journal "Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications" brewer's yeast demonstrated the ability to prevent structures at the ends of chromosomes from becoming eroded, a process that can lead to cancerous cell division. Researchers note that a protein in brewer's yeast is similar in structure to a protein that participates in human cell division.
Brewer's yeast may help improve immune function, according to the University of Utah Health Care. Immune benefits of brewer's yeast include inhibition of Clostridium difficile, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes diarrhea. Brewer's yeast also inhibits the food-borne pathogens Salmonella and E. coli, according to a study published in the March 2007 issue of the "Journal of Medical Microbiology." Brewer's yeast prevented spread of Salmonella to the liver and improved liver function, allowing more effective removal of bacteria from the bloodstream. Researchers concluded that brewer's yeast bolstered the immune system by acting both locally -- at the site of infection -- and systemically -- throughout the body
Comprised of 52 percent protein, brewer's yeast is an excellent low-fat source of protein and is a favored energy food among fitness enthusiasts for use in smoothies and juices. Brewer's yeast is also a good source of certain minerals, such as selenium and chromium and B-complex vitamins. Though naturally lacking in vitamin B-12, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center, some manufacturers of brewer's yeast supplements fortify the yeast with the vitamin.