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In 1854, a case report was published in the precursor of the British Medical Journal, suggesting two to three tablespoons of brewer’s yeast every day could cure diabetes within six weeks. But it took another hundred and fifty years before it was finally put to the test in a randomized double-blind controlled clinical trial of about a half of a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast a day for three months. What happened? A significant drop in fasting blood sugars and hemoglobin A1c, as well as an improvement in insulin sensitivity. What do these numbers mean, though?
Hemoglobin A1c is a measure of how high your blood sugars have been over time. Under six means you’ve been having normal blood sugars, between 6 and 6.5 means you have pre-diabetes, and anything over 6.5 means you have diabetes. Now, you can have well-controlled diabetes or way out-of-control diabetes, but anything over 6.5 is considered diabetic.
In the study, the placebo group started up at around 9, and stayed up around 9. But the brewer’s yeast group dropped from 9 to 8. So, the placebo group was stuck up at 9, and the yeast group dropped from 9 down to 8. So, they weren’t cured, but in three months’ time, they were able to achieve significantly better diabetic control just eating half a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast a day, which would cost about 4 pennies a day—4 cents a day.
What about for just seven weeks? Again, a total of about a half-teaspoon of brewer’s yeast a day. Started out with an A1c level of 8. The placebo appeared to help a bit, but the yeast, even more. From 8 down to an almost nondiabetic 6.6. That’s amazing; how could it be? Well, the drug industry has been trying for decades to discover the so-called Glucose Tolerance Factor in yeast; after all, no shareholder is going to be happy with a therapy you can buy for only 4 cents a day.
We know that whatever it is in yeast that’s doing it contains the trace mineral chromium. Well, can you just give chromium supplements alone? Just giving straight chromium does not appear to be particularly effective. Might the special fiber in yeast, the beta glucans, play a role?
Supplementation with the amount of beta glucan found in 2 to 3 teaspoons of brewer’s yeast a day did result in a slimmer waist and drop of blood pressure within 6 weeks. They trimmed about an inch off their waist, despite no significant change in caloric intake. Blood pressures were significantly reduced as well, an effect also seen with whole brewer’s yeast. Just a half-teaspoon of brewer’s yeast a day led to a significant drop in high blood pressure, which, incidentally, is a key contributor to the cardiovascular and kidney complications of diabetes.
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