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Three Brands of Nutritional Yeast Contain Detectable Lead Levels But the Risk is Minimal

Note from Dr. Greger: In short, we found detectable amounts of lead in samples of Frontier, KAL, and Whole Foods brand nutritional yeast, but the lead levels were so low that they all comply with the exceedingly (and justifiably) strict California Prop 65 standards. Still, I advise pregnant women who eat more than a third of a cup a day on a regular basis choose a different brand. No detectable lead levels were found in Bob’s Red Mill, Bragg, Dr. Fuhrman, Red Star, or NOW Foods brand nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast has grown in popularity and is being introduced into many new dishes and recipes. It has a nice “cheesy” flavor and texture that can be used in sauces and soups or sprinkled over salads and popcorn. Dr. Greger recently covered how the beta glucan fiber in nutritional yeast can modulate our immune system and help to maintain our body’s defense against pathogens (See Dr. Greger’s video on Nutritional Yeast to Prevent the Common Cold). It seems beta glucans can be found in many foods, including mushrooms, which have been shown to boost immunity as well.

A safety concern arose when Dr. Greger was notified that California’s prop 65 warning stickers were found on packages of nutritional yeast, suggesting there’s something in it exceeding cancer or reproductive safety limits. It turns out the problem was lead. There are many contaminants in the environment and in our food supply, even found in our children, which is probably why California has such strict guidelines on contamination. For example, California considers candies with lead levels in excess of 0.10 parts per million (ppm) to be excessively contaminated. State law requires products that contain more than half of a microgram of lead per daily serving to carry a label warning consumers. Could nutritional yeast carry lead levels this high?

We reached out to some of the companies who produce nutritional yeast in hopes to better understand the situation. We asked if they perform lead testing and if they could share any information. The results of Dr. Greger’s inquiries can be found in his video here. He was frustrated by the lack of responsiveness and so decided we should take it upon ourselves to do our own testing. The NutritionFacts Research Fund was created and thanks to generous donor support we tested samples from 8 companies for the presence of lead in hopes to spur them to do their own testing.

We hired an independent lab to conduct our tests for lead. I shipped out 8 samples of nutritional yeast in their original package. The lab used standard practices for lead testing known as Official Methods of Analysis set by AOAC International. Lab technicians determined the lead values based on California Prop 65 standards. Here are the results from the brands we tested:

Bob’s Red Mill  – Test report shows no detectable lead (<0.01 ppm).

BraggTest report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Dr. Fuhrman  Test report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Frontier CoopTest report shows lead levels at 0.021 ppm. It would take six tablespoons a day (based on the manufacture’s listed density) to exceed the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Maximum Allowable Dose Level (MADL) for chemicals causing reproductive toxicity.*

KALTest report shows lead levels at 0.011 ppm. It would take seven tablespoons a day to exceed the MADL.*

NOW FoodsTest report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Red StarTest report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Whole Foods Test report shows lead levels at 0.012 ppm. It would take six tablespoons a day to exceed the MADL.*

So what do all those numbers mean? None of the brands tested exceeded California prop 65 standards. No matter what brand, consuming a typical serving (2 tablespoons) per day is still well within safe limits. I will certainly continue to include the stuff in my diet. Dr. Neal Barnard once said, “It’s not about ALL foods in moderation, it’s about healthy foods in moderation. Broccoli is great, but you don’t want to just eat broccoli. Kids exercising is wonderful, but you don’t want them to exercise all the time.”

-Joseph Gonzales, R.D.

*Note from Dr. Greger: The Maximum Allowable Dose Level for lead as a developmental toxin is 0.5 micrograms a day. How are MADL’s calculated? Basically scientists figure out what the “no observable effect level” is, the level at which no birth defects or reproductive toxicity can be found, and then introduce a 1000-fold safety buffer. So for example, let’s say there’s some chemical that causes birth defects if expectant moms are exposed to two drops of the chemical a day, but there’s no evidence that one drop a day is harmful. Do they set the Maximum Allowable Dose Level at one drop? No, they set it at 1/1000th of a drop to account for scientific uncertainty and to err on the side of caution. So by saying six tablespoons a day of nutritional yeast may exceed the MADL is in effect saying that the level of lead found in 6,000 tablespoons of nutritional yeast may cause birth defects. Like mercury, though, as far as I’m concerned the less lead exposure the better. I hope this will inspire companies to do further testing to see if the levels we found were just flukes.


147 responses to “Three Brands of Nutritional Yeast Contain Detectable Lead Levels But the Risk is Minimal

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  1. Joseph, are you comfortable with the fact that nutritional yeast is grown using synthetic vitamins? Even when a company states on the package “un-fortified/not fortified nutritional yeast”, that just means the product has not been fortified after the product (yeast) has been grown. But to my direct knowledge, any nutritional yeast you buy in Whole Foods or other health food store (all the big brands of nutritional yeast, are actually grown using synthetic vitamins. If they don’t then add the vitamins in post-growth, well, they are allowed to label it un-fortified. End result, one is still ingesting synthetic, artificial vitamins.

    How does this sit with your nutritional path on this journey.? Are you at peace ingesting these non-food based vitamins in your diet, as a result of ingesting nutritional yeast? How about you Dr. Greger? Synthetic thiamin, niacin, minerals, etc.? Does this really resonate with a plant-based diet?

    1. Joseph: Reading the article, I was thinking about the same thing. The members of the vitamin B family in the nutritional yeast products I’ve seen are added (either before or after the fermentation, I don’t know) to the product, not directly from the yeast in the product itself. I might as well take B-complex pills, which are cheaper and more convenient if my objective is to get vitamin B.
      To the guest: There’s a product, made in Switzerland, called Bio-Strath. From what I can gather from the manufacturer’s website, the B vitamins in it are not added. However, there’s no way of knowing how much vitamin B it has because the manufacturer doesn’t publish the information. And I’ve never used it, so I don’t know how effective it is.

      1. More than B-vitamins nutritional yeast offers beta-glucans. I think another unfortified brand is Dr. Fuhrman if you’re trying to avoid added vitamins.

        1. Yeah, but are you comfortable eating nutritional yeast that has been fortified with synthetic B vitamins? Is this a reason not to, for you, or according to the science?

          1. FOODS ALIVE nutritional yeast is NOT grown on synthetic b vitamins. We searched for over a year to find a company that makes it with ZERO vitamins used ever.

            1. Yes, but they say on their website that they’ve had their yeast tested for lead and they results were <0.020ppm–which, if I'm correct, is higher than all the ones listed here.

          2. @tsunrisea – I just called Foods Alive. Unfortunately, their lead content is 0.020 micrograms/gram (ppm), which is on the higher end– on a par with the Frontier Coop brand listed in the article. It’s a shame that it’s so hard to find a product that’s got it all (no synthetic vitamins + undetectable lead)!…. It’s important, because there is no such thing as a “safe” level of lead, especially for children. (I’m writing to you from Flint, where we’ve learned a lot about lead over the past couple of years unfortunately).

            1. So disappointing to have to research NY when it seems like it should be more natural. after reading this article and doing some searching…i’ve found Sari Foods!! check them out…no lead, synthetic,

              1. No Lead? They have stated (Sari themselves, in QA on Amazon) that it has been tested and has 0.02ppm

                Has this product been tested for lead content?

                Hi! Yes it has and results for lead testing have been at levels less than 0.02ppm.
                By Sari Foods Company on April 4, 2016”

          3. I may be reading into this, but the way you’ve phrased this appears to be a loaded-gun type of question, with only one correct answer. I will respectfully disagree and state that the “synthetic” process is not an immediate red flag. For instance, Dr. Greger also recommends consuming vitamin fortified foods to obtain B12 if you are not regularly supplementing. Naturally, for those eating a WFPB diet, something like nutritional yeast or vitamin B12 might represent a mere hundredth of a fraction of what they are consuming day to day. Dr. Greger doesn’t even recommend nutritional yeast in his Daily Dozen. The issue with your argument is that there is simply no way in today’s day and age to eat a diet that does not have some “synthetic” component to it. If you instead eat meat or fish to get your B12, you are inadvertently consuming synthetic antibiotics and PCBs. Even if you “went off the grid,” abstaining from all supplements and synthetic products, you might survive, but you would likely not thrive.

            Once upon a time, this notion of a completely natural diet may have been feasibly possible, but today unlikely. As long as we are conscious consumers, maximizing the whole plant food components of our diet, and minimizing the refined components of our diet only to what is strictly necessary (B12 and perhaps, algal oil as important supplements), we can ensure our overall health. I believe this is the message NutitionFacts is trying to convey.

          4. For me it makes no sense to buy it, because you buy the yeast with having in mind to get a natural source of B-Vitamins, but this is not the case. I think it’s very horrible of the brands, that they add synthetic vitamins, and people feel good about their “natural” source of vitamins, which it is actually not.

    2. Nothing about vegan eating says supplements are bad. I think the main goal of this website is to be healthy, rather than a religious adherence to popular definitions of purity. I think it’s up to personal choice whether someone eats nutritional yeast, as it’s mostly used for flavor (we still need B12 supplements), unless research comes out saying it’s not healthful.

      1. I agree with you supplements are not bad. I take several supplements. The problem with nutritional yeast is twofold:
        1. Nutritional yeast is a supplement masquerading as food.
        2. Dr. Greger usually recommends supplements only if they are truly necessary (examples: B12, D), so I’m intrigued as to why he recommends nutritional yeast. If it’s for beta-glucans, there’re other, whole foods that naturally contains them.

      2. Supplements can be made by natural means, ingredients. B vitamins in supplements are synthetic, chemical based, totally not-natural, not plant-based, and have been ingested by humans for very little time, maybe a billionth of our existence. Something does not seem natural as far as ingesting a chemical to get vitamins that humans are supposed to get from food. No? Do the research on how B vitamins are made, petroleum, etc. These things seem like drugs as much as drugs seem like drugs. Why? Cause they are. It is semantics here. And nutritional yeast seems to be a supplement, chemical supplement, not a food. But hey, maybe these synthetic vitamins help some people. I am open to it.

        1. Folate is in nutritional yeast (at least Red Star brand; I’m not sure of the others), not folic acid. So perhaps it isn’t an issue.

          1. Folate is the natural form in food. Folic acid is synthetic. The supplement industry is not overseen by the FDA so you can’t believe that the word folate is actually folate. It is very likely folic acid.

            1. You’re right. I just looked at the Red Star package again. Though “folate” is listed under Nutrition Facts, it’s called “folic acid” in the ingredients. Bummer. I wish there was a nutritional yeast fortified with B12 and nothing else.

              1. That’s exactly what I’m dreaming of. But with high amounts of the natural B-Vitamins and not this laughable little amounts, which are in the very few non-fortified products.

      3. Nature-made nutrients are dextrorotatory while man-made made ones are levorotatory. Man-made substances are not recognized by the body and are thus processed as toxins. They add to the body’s toxic load.

  2. Please test the lead levels in sunflower seeds and other other raw nuts and seeds that are commonly bought by vegans. Sunflower seeds are known to pull lead out of the soil. I can not help but wonder about daily ingestion of nuts and seeds as far as heavy metals, current testing 2015.

    Please also test lead levels in leafy greens, organic, grown in CALIFORNIA. I read that current-day leafy greens absorb lead and cadmium, maybe no big deal, but hey, if you guys are testing, let’s go for it! I’d rather not be taking in so much lead and cadmium, if this is the case.

    1. Great suggestion! Chocolate is another plant that traps environmental heavy metals. Worth looking into if you’re a cocoa lover.

  3. Fantastic job guys in pulling this test together! And in so fully explaining what the results actually mean for us as consumers. I’m so glad I don’t have to throw out my jar of Red Star in the pantry…

        1. I use the plain Sari brand because the fortified has folic acid which has been linked to cancers. Dr. Fuhrman sells a plain one as well for that reason.

          1. Although, Dr. Fuhrman’s is quite expensive for the amount you get (I believe it’s like $9 for a 4 oz shaker). KAL also offers an unfortified version, which is their Imported. $16 for a 14.8 oz canister on Vitacost (right now they’re out of stock, but I’m sure it will be back in stock soon). Some Sprouts also carries the KAL Imported (haven’t checked Whole Foods, but they may as well).

          2. No, folic acid hasn’t been—at least, not in any incontrovertible way. Sari nutritional yeast is not fortified, so it lacks many of the nutrients that gives nutritional yeast it’s nutritional benefits. Although it’s not harmful to have non-fortified nutritional yeast per se, there’s no point in avoiding it.

      1. It is not recommended to get your nutritional yeast from those clear bulk bins. This is because light degrades the B vitamins. Which probably defeats the reason you’re consuming the yeast in the first place. That & it is not uncommon for workers to mistakenly & unknowingly pour the wrong kind of yeast, such as a brewer’s yeast, into the bin labeled ‘nutritional yeast’. And we all know brewer’s yeast is a completely different bird, so to speak.

  4. There must be a typo in there somewhere, because you say

    Frontier Coop – Test report shows lead levels at 0.021 ppm
    Whole Foods – Test report shows lead levels at 0.012 ppm

    but for both you say “It would take six tablespoons a day to exceed the MADL” although the first product shows nearly twice the value of the second.

    1. Good point, but keep in mind the manufacturer’s differs per brand. If you look at the lab report on Frontier, 16 grams of yeast is about 1/4 cup. So it’s lighter than Whole Foods. The main thing is no lead was found anywhere in dangerous levels and you’d have to eat a boat load of nutritional yeast daily for any potential concerns.

      1. the vitamin b in braggs in very high and over the 100 percent in one tablespoon isn’t vitamin b toxic it isn’t water soluble that comes out of your body. I ate quite a bit not realizing this. I think I’ll just throw it out and stick to fruits and vegetables

        1. “Since B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, it’s generally considered safe, even at high doses. No Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) has been established for B12, due to its low level of toxicity.” – Healthline

    2. If you look at the reports Whole Foods is nearly twice as heavy as the Frontier yeast (15 per 2T serving versus 8g per 2T serving). That’s how Frontier can have nearly twice the lead concentration but about the same amount per serving. Does that make sense Bruce?

  5. this is great to see. some cheese sauce recipes require 6 tbsp of this so i really need to watch for the brand. I was buying Natural Grocers in house brand but will def switch to one of the recommended ones. Thanks a lot.

    1. I still think any brand is fine. Even for cheese sauce, I doubt 6 Tablespoons of the yeast is consumed, unless the dish is not shared. Regardless, what I find interesting is the huge amount of buffer room when Maximum Allowable Dose Levels are calculated. It may be worthy to point out regulations on herbal supplements are far less strict and lead can be found in products up to like 10 micrograms per serving!

    2. How much cheese sauce does the recipe make? Do you eat the entire recipe of sauce yourself or is the sauce recipe serving many people?

    1. Ask your doctor if there seems to be any, but I have not heard of nutritional yeast causing drug-nutrients interactions.

        1. Aha. If you find the article or study you read feel free to post it here and we can investigate more. Thanks, vince.

    2. Not sure about mooch but I learned in school yesterday black licorice and tons of salad will interact.. especially even just a few pieces of black licorice. Just thought I’d share to save you the ER trip.

  6. so challenging to know what is being “offered” to us consumers. We are seeking a reliable source of organic nutritional yeast, and preferably one that does not kill us. Knowing more about Nutritional Yeast (NY) is helpful, frustrating and concerning. Rather know than not. We have been discussing eliminating NY from our lives period. Thus aiming for good health, seek only organic produce, actually seeking TRUE VEGANIC produce as well. We care about what it is we provide our bodies with, and what we share with others. Organic celery and other veggies can be dehydrated and made into powders in place of salty flavours … maybe together we can brain flow and find a replacement of this fraudulent nutritional yeast as well? Do not trust anything from Bragg’s since we learnt about its deeply hidden and yes, dark secrets. Shame on them as well. Let us all rise and start refusing to be toxic wasteland filtration units by becoming community aware (that means sharing and informing one another for the benefit of all and the planet). Do we sound extreme?

      1. let us start here, contains a lot of the information one could seek out by googling the product of Bragg’s itself. Keep in mind just because Bragg’s response feel low key does not remove the toxic end product results. Ultimately we each decide what it is we allow in lives to nourish us, we feel it is wise to back away from the questionable things. We feel this is such the case with Bragg’s, and we do not feel we have seen any accountability from Bragg’s itself, from the mislabelling misleading its consumers saying it contained no MSG, to the fact is is not a low sodium option; One teaspoon of soy sauce contains 177 mg of sodium, and the same amount of Bragg Liquid Aminos contains 280 mg. soooo much not right with it at all. Here is a link that combines a lot of the information you are welcome to verify as credible to yourself, and please feel free to share what you find out. Lots of love to you and thanks for asking.

        1. The link you shared is just a blog with peoples opinions and fear mongering. Not a credible source. Even the ex-Bragg employee says there is nothing unhealthy about the liquid aminos.

          1. That’s incorrect. A friend of mine had contacted Bragg to inquire about the MSG in the liquid aminos and they could not deny. There is, indeed, MSG in the liquid aminos.

            1. Dana V. thank you for this post. I experienced a spontaneous black eye after eating a salad with Bragg Liquid Aminos as the dressing. I tried to put my finger on what was the allergen involved but knew that I am very allergic to MSG.

              There should be a disclaimer of some sort on the bottle. My allergy has worsened over the years. Since then, accidental exposure from restaurant food has escalated to tongue and face swelling. It doesn’t matter what form it is in, if it is in there unintentional exposure can be dangerous for those of us with severe food allergies.

        2. Lulu, I appreciate the link but I have always avoided Braggs Liquid Amino since it clearly prints the very high sodium level that you point out is much higher that traditional soy sauce, itself a very high sodium source. I would hope any well intentioned vegan would avoid high sodium products and thanks again for pointing this out. Since I see it every year at Vegetarian SummerFest, some people clearly do not know.

        3. Bragg does not claim health benefits from the liquid aminos. Bragg Liquid Aminos is a healthy alternative to Soy and Tamari sauce. No table salt or preservatives are added.

          Kikkoman Soy Sauce has 307mg sodium per teaspoon, the less sodium version has 192mg sodium per teaspoon. Ingredients

          Bragg Liquid Aminos contains 320mg of sodium per teaspoon serving. If less sodium is desired, use the 6oz.Bragg Liquid Aminos spray bottle and dilute it (2/3 Bragg Liquid Aminos to 1/3 distilled water) before using or spraying on food.
          Ingredients: Bragg Liquid Aminos is not fermented, is Gluten-Free and made from non-GMO soybeans and purified water. It is an excellent alternative for Tamari and Soy Sauce.

          Bragg does not add any MSG to its liquid amino products. However, MSG is found naturally occurring in many foods, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and soybeans. Since Bragg Liquid Aminos is made from soybeans, there can be some very small amounts of naturally occurring MSG. Patricia Bragg is personally very opposed to adding MSG as a food ingredient to foods, and she is very sensitive to MSG. Many of our customers who are very sensitive to MSG have never had any adverse reactions to Bragg Liquid Aminos.

    1. If Bragg’s is so bad, why wouldn’t you provide links to show what you are saying is true? Sounds like a bunch of malarkey.

  7. Helpful would be information on who up the distribution chain actually manufactures the nutritional yeast that is then labeled by those that were tested. I doubt all are manufacturers themselves. This company make the one I’m told that is sold in bulk at my local Sprouts: LeSaffre. I couldn’t find any relevant information on their website. Bummer.

          1. There are several brands of organic nutritional yeast. Starwest Botanicals, From the Fields, Raw Vegan Source, Bioreal, are some sold on Amazon.

      1. Thanks for that clarification, Dr. G. Googling the two confirms it (it’s just not prominently stated on LaSaffre’s website).

      2. That is nice to know Red Star has no detectable lead. However I want to know about the added folic acid. For 1.5 T there is listed folate 250% but on the ingredients list is folic acid. Earlier in the comments Joseph has skirted the folic acid supplementation of nutritional yeast. Isn’t there a real answer as to the safety of the B fortification of n.y.?

  8. Thank you so much for doing this. So happy to see these tests and setting up the testing fund. Wonderful stuff NF team. Keep up the excellent work.

  9. I am wondering and I think I already know the answer to this question, but this kind of regards nutritional yeast. Some nutritional yeasts have quite a bit of vitamin B12, and there are other fortified products like non dairy milks than can provide quite a bit of B12 per serving ( my almond milk has I think over 100 percent) yet it is recommended to still take a supplement. I guess I was just wondering why that is? I have a mathylcobalamin that I take every 2-3 weeks or so, and I always kind of worry that I am not getting enough I guess? We also garden and I try to eat some soil… I guess I want some closure as to if the fortified food B12 is absorbed or not?

    1. Hi Alexis. The B12 in nutritional yeast should count toward the daily value, however, in some cases it might not be enough and a supplement may be needed. I just wrote all about this in a recent comment on B12. Let me know if that helps answer your question?


      1. Yes! Thank you so much, that totally answers my questions! =) It is reassuring to have the knowledge and act according to it!


  10. This is great, fun information. Thanks for doing this!

    Do we know what the next project is going to be for the NutritionFacts Research Fund? If there is a big announcement on what the next project is going to be, maybe that will spur a bunch of new donations…

  11. Just a comment/suggestion: You use ppm, micrograms, and tablespoons in your article which is a common problem in nutritional discussions. These measurements do not translate well. I appreciate that you used the tablespoon to help relate the amounts to my diet. Perhaps a note on the relationships between the measurements would help? Going from micrograms to tablespoons via the 1,000/fold safety net firmly placed me in the “just-trust-his-math” state. I’d rather be in the “that-makes-clear-sense-to-me” state…if you get what I mean. Thank you for all your articles and videos. My comment pales compared to the good work you do.

    1. Thanks for the great suggestion. Perhaps we could have kept the values in micrograms. Everyone has access to the laboratory reports and they can see the Limit used for Detection, the results, and the micrograms of lead found per serving. Thanks for your nice comment and please continue to suggest ways to improve our website.

  12. On a related note, Consumer Labs found what they consider significant levels of lead and/or cadmium in the majority of the 21 cocoa and chocolate products they tested. I had been using unsweetened baking cocoa liberally, based in large part on info presented here, but their report certainly has given me pause. Might it be time to update your cocoa info?

  13. CAN ANYONE REFUTE THESE? (I’d love to still eat nutritional yeast on occasion, but it was one of the last highly processed substances that I gave up when I made the switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet years ago.)

    Here are at least three potential issues with nutritional yeast of which I am aware:

    1 – FOLIC ACID: Most brands of nutritional yeast (incuding Bragg) contain synthetic folic acid, which is BAD NEWS for health. (Folate, which you can get in whole plants, is just fine). You can buy Dr. Fuhrman’s (PRICEY) nutritional yeast if you want to avoid this issue. Read about it here:

    2 – NEUROTOXIC MSG: Anything with that “umami” flavor is bound to be excitotoxic, almost by definition.
    * See here:
    3 – GENETICALLY MODIFIED: The preferred source of carbohydrate for yeast is molasses from sugar beets or sugarcane. If it’s made using beet molasses, I would wager that the beets are genetically modified. Does anyone have good information on this?

    * Here’s an excerpt from #2:

    “I really didn’t want to believe what I had heard … I had enjoyed nutritional yeast on pop corn, in many vegetarian/vegan caseroles and menu items, and sprinkled on all manner of foods—and of course, in my “green drink”. This stuff is absolutely wonderful and delicious! But now I had to come to terms with what we had learned. Would I put my head in the sand and cling to my beloved nutritional yeast, or would I be an honest health reformer? First, I would try to disprove Dr. Blaylock’s findings, as best I could, so
    that I might, in good conscience, continue using this delicious taste enhancer that doubles as a nutrition supplement …”

    1. It doesn’t seem there are many studies to confirm any of these claims other than some EPA regulations for manufacturers. The GMO question is a good one. I would simply ask the companies themselves if that is a huge issue. I can help look into more if you insist. This was a big topic of discussion on the previous yeast video. I also suggest reading thru the comments as other user left some valuable comments. I think there are far more worrisome products on the market than nutritional yeast. The good news is at least our results didn’t find any lead at dangerous levels.

      1. Thanks, Joseph. According to Fuhrman, folic acid is clearly health-damaging … that’s enough (for me) to rule out all nutritional yeast products except Fuhrman’s, which costs $36/lb. And unless I’m mistaken, free glutamic acid is petty much as health damaging as MSG … so that’s two strikes. I don’t base my eating decisions on the fact that other food choices are more worrisome!

        1. That’s a good point “I don’t base my eating decisions on the fact that other food choices are more worrisome!” however I still have yet to see any research about the harmful affects of free glutamic acid and nutritional yeast. The whole reason we tested for lead was because the yeast has been found to contain beneficial immune modulating properties. Certainly you can avoid it if you’d like :-) or go for Fuhrman’s brand if more comfortable. Furthermore, MSG doesn’t appear harmful. Feel free to post research studies on here and we can look into the glutamic acid concerns more. Thanks, Laurie.

          1. Joseph- Many ingredients are labeled as excitotoxins because of Dr. Blaylock’s findings. His findings have been regurgitated by many BUT where is the science? When will we ever know?

          1. Yes, it does … but the Sari yeast does NOT contain B12, and I’m
            guessing vegans who buy it don’t know this. “Nonfortified” means they
            do not add any nutrients that don’t naturally occur in Saccharomyces
            cerevisiae … I just wrote to the company to confirm this, and
            representative Abigail Brown replied: “We believe it is important to
            offer a non-fortifed nutritional yeast product and this is why our
            nutritional yeast does not contain B12. Nutritional yeast is rich in B6
            naturally and doesn’t need the additional synthetic vitamins, which we
            believe can often do more harm than good.”

    2. All the studies seem to show that nutritional yeast has an awesome effect on health, to me that alone answers all the questions. But If you’re concerned about folic acid, there are unfortified nutritional yeasts. I recently learned about one by Sari Foods and contacted them about the lead and their reports came back <0.02. Also they're certified non-GMO so that's cool.

      I contacted BRAGGS (and Red Star but I've yet to hear back from Red Star) inquiring about the GMO's and they said that they use one ingredient in the process of making their nutritional yeast that is genetically modified, but that when the end result is tested, no GMO's remain in the final product.

      As for the MSG, you do not have to worry about it in nutritional yeast. There is a huge difference in naturally occurring MSG and synthetic lab produced MSG made for food additives and to work as a preservative in other products as well. There is MSG naturally occurring in lots of foods, such as mushrooms and tomatoes. Here is a great article explaining the difference between food additive MSG and the naturally occurring kind in yeast and other foods (I'm not a fan of Dr. Mercola, but some articles on his site can be helpful, such as this):

    3. So Bragg’s nutritional yeast contains synthetic B vitamins? I am extremely sensitive & react very badly to that. (People who have pyroluria apparently do)/ My Dr recommends it. Their website is super sketchy, not disclosing any ingredients or ingredients label pix closeup, only the useless “nutritional” info. A website shows synthetic vitamins added but this is not clear unless you know how to properly read the label. The “secret”? If it’s listed under “other ingredients”, be wary!

      Other Ingredients: niacin (B3), pyridoxine HCI (B6), riboflavin (B2), thiamin HCI (B1), folic acid, and vitamin B12.

      Those would be synthetic and sprayed on the yeast.Cajn anyone confirm?

      1. Unfortunately I can’t answer that, I will pass your question to our team to see if anyone knows.

        Yared, Nutritionist Volunteer Moderator

  14. I tried eating Nutritional yeast for a while. I did not feel good while eating eat and i did not eat a lot of it at a time. I no longer eat it and do not miss it and do not feel that it is necessary in mine or anyone elses diet. But each get to choose for themselves.

      1. The only product you mentioned that i use is bread, and i do not eat that often. For grains i eat mostly brown rice, millet and oats. As far as how the bread makes me fell – i do not have a problem with it, but do not eat it very often.

    1. Everyone’s body is different. I feel great on it and studies show that it is extremely beneficial to health. So that’s good news for those of us who enjoy it.

  15. With the proliferation of coal-fired plants in China, the probability of
    heavy metal contamination in exported produce has dramatically
    increased. China burns 4 billion tons of coal in power plants, homes
    & factories every year. Yet there are no checks for this even for
    ‘Organic’ labeled produce. A farm exporting produce that is adjacent to a
    coal plant, or even a smog choked city, is not a pretty picture. Yet
    who would know?
    I eat several ounces of ‘organic’ pumpkin seeds
    daily that I’ve learned were grown in China. Are there any home testing
    kits that you would recommend that can at least check for the presence
    of lead, mercury and cadmium? If you can’t answer this directly, could
    you post such information on your web site?

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! We used a lab to test for lead. I am sure you could do the same with food samples, but it may be more expensive. I honestly don’t know the efficacy of home test kits. Good Ol’ google helped. I found this Consumer Reports article on lead test kits. Maybe that’s a start? I’m not even sure these test for food and the levels of detection are much higher (like 2,000 parts per million) than ours (0.01 ppm). Of course, not buying foods from China eliminates the concern. Let me know if you find other test kits? Hopefully others here can give us suggestions.

  16. Hi, I love to put 3 tablespoons of Nutrition Baker’s yeast in a class of water to get vitamins and minerals and protein, I am bodybuilder and want to gain

    weight and muscles, Can I take 6 tablespoons of yeast daily before sleeping to get 40g protein? Is it safe?

    Best regards,

    100g of yeast contain 40g protein

    1. Are you talking of brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast? They have plain nutritional yeast, but the fortified will give you a lot of folic acid which is linked to cancer.

  17. Hi, I love to put 3 tablespoons of Nutrition nutritional yeast in a class of water to get vitamins and minerals and protein, I am bodybuilder and want to gain

    weight and muscles, Can I take 6 tablespoons of yeast daily before sleeping to get 40g protein? Is it safe?

    Best regards,

    100g of yeast contain 40g protein

    1. tahafahed: I’m not an expert, but while nutritional yeast is good for us, 6 tablespoons a day seems like a lot to me. I can’t say if it is a problem or not, but I think the following page that discussed building muscle on vegan diets would be helpful to you:
      It may not apply to your situation and 6 T may be just fine. But I think the info in the above link is good for all athletes to have. What do you think?

        1. No, the point of the link was to show that the extra protein you are worried about may not be needed, even for building muscles. In that case, your question about the quantity of yeast may be irrelevant.

          If you still want to get all that extra protein, I hope someone else will be able to answer your question. Good luck.

  18. My question about this, being vegan, is whether it contains L-Cysteine (which most breads contain), which comes from the breaking down of hair and feathers or coal tar to make this amino acid. I’m not finding any documentation about this, and I want to confirm for Red Star, which is available in my area. Thank you.

  19. Is the protein in nutritional yeast considered a simple cell animal protein in terms of it’s toxicity and potential for human harm?
    Is there any research that points to an answer?

    1. Maryk Myears: There may be other research out there, but the only videos on NutritionFacts that I am aware of shows nutritional yeast to be super healthy. Dr. Greger even talks about putting nutritional yeast on his popcorn in his book How Not To Die.

      Here are some videos which mention ‘yeast’, some of which are related to nutritional yeast: One is about improving immune function in athletes and another video is about preventing the common cold. Check it out!

  20. Supplemental calcium, folic acid, Vitamin E, Vitamin A all have serious drawbacks, to name just 4. When you get the nutrients from the food, the body uses what it needs. I recommend T. Colin Campbell’s book WHOLE for an illuminating understanding of the subject.

    1. MSG is found naturally in many foods including mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. But there is a huge difference between this and synthetically formed MSG in the way it reacts in our bodes. The food additive MSG creates free glutamine which is the bad stuff. MSG found in nature does not form free glutamine. You can read about it in the following link (I don’t care much for Dr. Mercola but there is occasionally some helpful info on his site such as the article I’m sharing).

    2. MSG is found naturally in many foods including mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. But there is a huge difference between this and synthetically formed MSG in the way it reacts in our bodes. MSG as it occurs in nature and not the food additive synthetic stuff, is completely safe and doesn’t cause the “MSG like effect” which often includes headaches and brain fog.
      You can read about it in the following article (I don’t care much for Dr. Mercola, but occasionally he has some helpful info on his website such as the article I’m about to share):

      “Does Nutritional Yeast Contain MSG-Like Compounds?

      It’s sometimes said that nutritional yeast contains compounds similar to monosodium glutamate (MSG), an excitotoxin that overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage. MSG is approximately 78 percent free glutamic acid, the same neurotransmitter that your brain, nervous system, eyes, pancreas, and other organs use to initiate certain processes in your body.

      Yeast is a natural source of umami flavor, or natural glutamic acid (glutamate). This is what gives it its rich, satisfying, almost meat-like flavor. It’s also what triggers the MSG fears, but they are unfounded.

      The glutamic acid found in nutritional yeast is “bound” to other amino acids or proteins. The glutamic acid that is MSG is not. When you eat glutamic acid in real foods, your body controls how much is absorbed. Excess glutamic acid is passed off as waste, not stored in your body. As reported by Smithsonian magazine:7

      ‘Glutamates that occur naturally in food come intertwined with different chemicals or fiber, which the body is naturally inclined to regulate, explains Amy Cheng Vollmer, professor of biology at Swarthmore College. MSG, however, comes without the natural components of food that help the body regulate glutamic levels … ‘The bottom line here is context is everything,’ Vollmer adds.'”

      Here’s the link to the article:

  21. I recently contacted Sari Foods Co. after learning that they make an unfortified nutritional yeast, I thought that was cool and am interested in their products but wanted to find out about the lead and they were really helpful and even sent me a copy of their report! Their lead content came back <0.02ppm. Another bonus is that they're certified nonGMO which is nice. I contacted BRAGGS on the GMO issue and they said they use one ingredient in the process of making their nutritional yeast that is GMO, but when the finished result is tested, that no GMO's are detected. I contacted Red Star for the same reason (inquiring about GMO's) and I haven't heard back.

  22. I just bought yellow superfood b12 nutritional yeast because its ingredient has no folic acid, nutritional facts saying folate b9. Anyone there know if folic acid still in this n.y.? This has been the most frustrating issue facing me and lots others, real pain.

  23. How about Starwest organic nutritional yeast? It says unfortified and on the website lists the ingredients it’s made from, no vitamins are listed. I also haven’t found any damning lead test results for this brand. Who’s got the dirt on starwest?

  24. I’m glad I happened upon this article since I go through quite a lot of nutritional yeast daily, and I have been using KAL’s unfortified nutritional yeast. I am curious however about the Sari Food’s brand of non-fortified nutritional yeast as it was not tested here. I prefer Sari’s by far over any other type because it is delicious and is not fortified with other vitamins. The only downside, if you will, is price. It’s close to $15 for 8 oz. the taste and quality are worth the cost though. I am just hoping there’s no lead now! I am wanting to try Sari’s other products (they have spirulina and wheat grass powders, etc.) but am hesitant because of other information floating around online about how these types of products can be easily contaminated these days. If anyone has information about the Sari Foods nutritional yeast or any of their products in general, please share!

    1. Hi Sarah, I actually contacted Sari foods about lead and nutritional yeast, apparently early last year according to my old comment here (under a different name), but I could have sworn it was a bit longer ago. Anyway, they were incredibly helpful and nice and not only did they ensure me they tested for lead and other contaminants regularly, but they sent me a copy of their result chart for the exact numbers I was looking for and more. If you’re concerned, you could simply contact them. They had levels from the report they sent me at 0.02 but maybe they’re lower now. I got they impression they really care about the quality of their products. I’m actually about to order some now and found this article on their website too:

      It’s so frustrating that BRAGGs fortifies their nutritional yeast! I definitely can’t afford to always by Sari plus even slightly lower lead levels are ideal to me. But I hate the idea of taking in folic acid so it makes me want to consume it less. Whyyyy do companies think we want this stuff fortified?! Most nutritional yeast fans are well aware of this stuff and want things natural. Companies need to start listening to customers more. BRAGGS does not have that great of customer service imo and they don’t seem to like to answer questions which annoys me.

    2. Sari does list Pantothenic Acid[B5] which is synthetic made by condensing isobutyraldehyde w/formaldehyde.Pantothenate is found in food.I’m quoting from Drs.Research

  25. What about the safety of the synthetic vitamins some of these contain? It seems counterproductive to consume a whole foods plant based diet but them consume something with synthetic ingredients.

  26. In answer to your question, yes lead can build up in the body over time, but your adult body also does a good job of eliminating it as well, and remember the doses we’re talking about with nutritional yeast are low. You may find this reassuring:
    “Once it is taken in and distributed to your organs, the lead that is not stored in your bones leaves your body in your urine or your feces. About 99% of the amount of lead taken into the body of an adult will leave in the waste within a couple of weeks, but only about 32% of the lead taken into the body of a child will leave in the waste. Under conditions of continued exposure, not all of the lead that enters the body will be eliminated, and this may result in accumulation of lead in body tissues, especially bone…

    If you are exposed to lead, many factors will determine whether you will be harmed. These factors include the dose (how much), the duration (how long), and how you come in contact with it. You must also consider any other chemicals you are exposed to and your age, sex, diet, family traits, lifestyle, and state of health.”
    Hope this will allow you to enjoy the nutritional yeast without undue worry.

    1. Thanks for this response Joan! I found it incredibly helpful and comforting! I wasn’t aware of these details.

      Liz, it’s also worth checking out Dr. Greger’s more recent videos on lead as he talks about ways to naturally lower lead levels in the body. Going by memory, garlic is amazing for this and vitamin c may be very helpful in preventing reabsorption in the digestive tract. I wish there were human studies on cilantro that’s long been claimed to powerfully chelate heavy metals from the body, but these are all based on animal tests… I think Dr. Greger addressed this in one of his videos… pretty sure that’s where I learned these claims were all from animal tests.

  27. Hi – I’ve been taking a very expensive brand of beta glucan, 1000mg/day, for the immune modulating effects. Given the expense, I’m exploring nutritional yeast as a source of beta glucan, but can’t find any information about how to get that dose of beta glucan by taking nutritional yeast. The thread here, too, doesn’t have too much focus on beta glucan…..any ideas, anyone? Thank you!

    1. Yes, thank you. I was wondering if there are actual numbers about how much beta glucan is in a Tbl. of nutritional yeast but can’t find it. The list of ingredients on the back of the Sari package don’t list it and the company said they don’t have those numbers. I’ve been taking Better Way Health’s beta glucan, 1000mg/day, but it’s very expensive and was looking for a food alternative. Hence the questions….thanks!

  28. I have a question with regard to the brands tested in this study: Is the Whole Foods brand that was tested the pre-packaged item (I believe that it’s ground) vs. the bulk option? At our local Whole Foods Market, I confirmed that the bulk bin is supplied by Red Star. I am just looking for clarity of what nutritional yeast from Whole Foods was tested. Thanks!

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