Series of studies confirm the immune-stimulating effect of one of nature’s helpful forms of fungus
The amount of beta-glucan fibers in just one serving of nutritional yeast per day can be enough to change the course of our immune response to various pathogens, according to a study that included this substance in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study for the prevention of common childhood diseases .
The results reflect an understanding of immunity that began in 1989 when the late Charles Janeway gave a presentation that revolutionized our understanding of the immune system. Janeway had correctly theorized and described how the innate immune system worked.
He suggested that the way our immune cells differentiate between self and “not-self” – that is, our own cells versus invading microbes – could be due to pattern recognition receptors. In other words, he suggested that we are born with the ability to “recognize patterns of microbial structure”.
This is where nutritional yeast – a type of unicellular fungus – comes into play. There is a unique part of the fungal cell walls called beta-glucan that naturally stimulates our immune system. Our own cells do not produce beta-glucan, but fungal pathogens such as candida do. Candida is a type of yeast that can cause serious blood infections, so it’s good for our immune system to recognize it right away. Of course, you could stimulate the immune system by injecting candida into your veins, but then you can die too.
Fortunately for us, non-disease-causing yeasts like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is used to make baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, and nutritional yeast, share the same molecular signature as beta-glucan. The pharmaceutical industry is using this “powerful immune stimulating response” to develop new anti-infection and cancer therapies, and you don’t have to inject them to get the benefits.
Our digestive tract is our greatest point of contact with the outside world. All outside food travels through this system, which is exposed to more surface area than our lungs and skin combined. It is therefore not surprising that most of our immune cells are concentrated along the intestinal wall. But they don’t just stay there. Once they know what is going on in the intestines, they can defend other parts of the body. Therefore, you can give an oral cholera vaccine and end up with cholera-fighting immune cells in your salivary glands that pump antibodies into your saliva to protect yourself from infection.
What if we sprinkled some nutritional yeast over our children’s popcorn as a snack? Could this help the marshal defense all over her body? Adults tend to get a few colds a year, but the average school kid can get a cold every other month – and what can we really do about it? Modern medicine has little to offer against everyday colds. Even so, doctors still often prescribe antibiotics that can do more harm than good.
“There is clearly a need for effective, safe, and inexpensive treatment … [and] Beta-glucan can be exactly the right solution, ”write the authors of a study published in 2013.
The researchers in this study conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of about half a teaspoon of beta-glucan from nutritional yeast in children with repeated respiratory infections. They reported in the Annals of Translational Medicine that after one month they noticed a significant increase in salivary lysozyme levels compared to controls. Lysozyme is an important protective immune component of our eyes, nose and mouth.
However, a larger follow-up study published in the same journal in 2014 reported the opposite results, an apparent decrease in salivary lysozyme levels. And although the researchers claimed that this was “accompanied by marked improvements in the general physical health of the subjects tested,” no such data was provided. However, the only reason we looked at the lysozyme levels was to hope it would lead to fewer infections, but such studies have never been done … until 2016.
At that point, the researchers published their results in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences. They conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to see if the beta-glucan in just one serving of nutritional yeast every day would reduce the number of episodes of common teething problems.
“During the 12-week study, 85 percent of the children in the placebo group experienced one or more episodes of an infectious disease,” the study says. In the sugar pill group, 85 percent got sick, but taking as little as an eighth of a teaspoon of beta-glucans, or even a sixteenth of a teaspoon, seemed to cut the disease rates in half. And those on the yeast who had a cold only suffered about three days, compared to almost nine days in the placebo group.
The researchers concluded that by giving children yeast beta-glucans, we could “reduce the incidence and severity of infectious diseases during the cold / flu season and help parents look after sick children.”
Nutritional yeast has also been shown to be beneficial for marathon runners, and even stress-induced immunosuppression. proven for cancer, but that is an article in itself.
Michael Greger, MD, FACLM, is a physician, New York Times best-selling author, and internationally recognized specialist speaker on a number of important public health topics. He has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Influenza Summit, testified before Congress, appeared in “The Dr. Oz Show “and” The Colbert Report “and was invited as an expert witness to defend Oprah Winfrey in the infamous” meat defamation “trial. This article was originally published on NutritionFacts.org.