What is it?
Yeast Autolysate, also known as Autolysed Yeast or Autolyzed Yeast, wrongly known as Yeast Extract, is a yeast that – in colloquial terms – has being allowed to self-destruct. Yeast Autolysate results from the self digestion of the proteins and other constituents of the yeast by the enzyme contained in the yeast cells. (1). The cell walls are not removed from the Autolysed Yeast resulting in a product which is only partially soluble in water, making it different from Yeast Extract.
The Food Chemical Codex defines Autolysed Yeast as follows: “Autolysed Yeast is the concentrated, not extracted, partially soluble digest obtained from food-grade yeasts. Solubilisation is accomplished by enzyme hydrolysis or autolysis of yeast cells. Autolysed Yeast contains both soluble and insoluble components derived from the whole yeast cell”. (2)
What is it used for?
In Microbiology as a Culture Medium: It’s used to increase the yield of organisms in fermentation broths, especially recommended where rapid growth is required. (3, 4, 5). In 1947 it was reported to have being successfully used as a culture medium for Hemophilus Influenza. (6)
In the Food Industry: Yeast Autolysate is mainly used in the food industry as a flavor enhancer due to its MSG like properties. Although Yeast Autolysate presents similar properties as MSG, it is not MSG. It’s used in the flavoring of snacks, cereals, biscuits, etc. It’s an ingredient in some pet foods. It provides the “meat” like taste on meatless foods. It’s used as a nutrient for certain micro-organisms in the fermentation process of bread and other baked goods.
In Cosmetics: Because of its high levels of proteins, amino-nitrogen and vitamins particularly B-complex, it’s used as a nourishing agent in shampoos, conditioners and cosmetics in general. (10)
What shouldn’t be used for?
Recently some manufacturers of cosmetic products, in particular certified organic cosmetics products, have reported the use of this yeast as a “preservative” in water based products like lotions and creams. Yeast Autolysate is not and cannot be used as a preservative agent. As all yeasts, Yeast Autolysate is responsible for improving microbial activity and growth, instead of diminishing it.
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