Nutrition Market

What is Beta Glucan?

Beta glucan is a fibre derived from the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae and cereals like oats and barley. It is a viscosity enhancing soluble fibre that has been studied extensively for its health benefits.

Sources of Beta Glucan

The main dietary sources of beta glucan include:

  • Oats and oat bran - Oats contain 3-8% beta glucan and is the highest source from cereals
  • Barley - Barley contains 3-6% beta glucan concentrated in the bran
  • Shiitake mushrooms - Shiitake mushrooms contain 5-8% beta glucan
  • Baker’s yeast - Baker’s yeast contains up to 60% beta glucan
  • Algae varieties like chlorella and spirulina - Some algae contain up to 50% beta glucan

Why is Beta Glucan Used in Supplements?

Beta glucan supplements are used to benefit:

Immune Health

Beta glucans stimulate immune cells and bolster the body’s defence system. This helps in preventing and fighting infections and colds.

Heart Health

Soluble fibres like beta glucans lower blood cholesterol levels, reducing the risk for heart disease. They also improve blood lipid profiles.

Blood Sugar Control

Beta glucans delay stomach emptying, slowing digestion and absorption of sugars, preventing blood sugar spikes. This helps regulate blood glucose levels.

Digestive Health

As a prebiotic soluble fibre, beta glucans promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and support digestive health and regularity.

How Does Beta Glucan Work?

Beta glucan is a soluble viscous fibre that forms a thick gel when mixed with fluids. This gel entraps fats and sugars, prevents their absorption, and removes bad cholesterol out of the body.

The viscosity of the gel regulates digestion and nutrient absorption from the gut, ensuring steadier blood sugar rise rather than sudden spikes.

Beta glucans also feed and proliferate good gut bacteria that play various beneficial roles - immune support, vitamin production, digestion and absorption of nutrients, protection against pathogens and more.

The gut microbiome ferments beta glucans and releases short-chain fatty acids that provide additional health gains.

What Are The Health Benefits?

1. Boosts Immunity

Beta glucans stimulate white blood cells that orchestrate the body’s immune response and strengthen defences against invading bacteria and viruses.

Numerous studies confirm beta glucans heighten activity of immune cells like macrophages and natural killer cells to ramp up the body’s protection systems and resistance against infections.

Beta glucans also enhance antibodies and cytokines fundamental to antiviral and antimicrobial activity within immune cells. This primes the immune system to effectively combat pathogens.

2. Manages Blood Sugar

Foods rich in beta glucan like oats have a low glycaemic index. Beta glucans form a viscous gel during digestion which delays gastric emptying and slows nutrient absorption from the gut.

This results in slower, steadier rise in blood glucose rather than rapid spikes after meals. Such stable blood sugar control is vital for diabetes management.

3. Reduces Cholesterol

The soluble fibres in beta glucans bind to cholesterol-rich bile acids released from the gall bladder and excrete them out of the body. This interruption in enterohepatic circulation forces the liver to use circulating LDL and tissue cholesterol stores to synthesise more bile acids.

This chain effect lowers total and LDL cholesterol levels. A meta-analysis of randomised control trials confirms daily consumption of 3 grams beta glucans from oats or yeast reduces LDL and total cholesterol with no changes to HDL or triglycerides.

4. Eases Digestive Issues

Beta glucans alleviate constipation by adding bulk and moisture to stools, making their passage easier through the intestines.

As prebiotics that feed gut microbiota, beta glucans help beneficial bacteria thrive and restore balance of gut flora. This protects against pathogens, reduces bloating and gas, and ensures smooth digestion.

5. Aids Weight Control

Beta glucans promote satiety and make people feel fuller for longer by:

  • Delaying gastric emptying and slowing nutrient absorption
  • Regulating blood sugar and preventing energy crashes
  • Stimulating appetite control hormones like CCK

This suppresses appetite and reduces calorie intake, which supports weight management.

What Are The Side Effects?

Beta glucans derived from yeast or mushrooms are usually well tolerated with no significant side effects at recommended doses. Those with yeast allergies must avoid yeast-sourced beta glucans.

When consuming beta glucan rich whole foods like oats, some people may experience bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea if they suddenly increase portions. This can be prevented by gradually increasing intake.

As beta glucans can affect blood sugar levels, diabetics on glucose-lowering medications must monitor blood sugar closely and consult doctors on adjusting medicine dosage if adding beta glucan supplements.

What Is The Ideal Beta Glucan Dosage?

For cholesterol lowering, 3 grams per day of beta glucans from oat or yeast taken for 2-12 weeks significantly reduces LDL and total cholesterol levels.

For immune stimulation, dosages of 100-500 mg purified yeast beta glucans taken for 10-60 days effectively activates immune functioning with no toxicity or adverse effects.

Doses up to 1000 mg beta glucans daily from mushrooms, yeasts or algae for 4-8 weeks amplify immunity biomarkers and protect against infections.

Always start with the lowest effective dose and gradually increase intake while assessing individual response and tolerance. Combining whole food sources with purified supplements gives both prebiotic fibres and immune targeted benefits.

Are Beta Glucans Suitable For You?

Beta glucans offer wide therapeutic benefits. Their prebiotic and immune boosting advantages can benefit most people.

Those with high cholesterol and heart disease risk factors can gain from beta glucans’ LDL lowering effects. People with recurrent respiratory illnesses and infections stand to enhance immune defences with beta glucans.

Their ability to steady blood sugar rise also helps diabetics manage glucose control. Even healthy individuals can use beta glucans to bolster overall wellbeing.

However, people with gluten intolerance or yeast allergies must avoid the respective sources of beta glucans. If you are unsure about using beta glucans or about possible supplement-medicine interactions, consult your doctor.

How To Select Quality Beta Glucan Supplements

With so many options, choosing effective beta glucan supplements that give real benefits can be confusing. Follow these pointers:

  • Source - Yeast derived beta glucans have the most research supporting immune gains. Mushroom and algal beta glucans also enhance immunity.
  • Extract Type - Opt for purified, concentrated beta glucan extracts that deliver sufficient potency for biological effects.
  • Assay - Product assay determining actual beta glucan levels is vital - at least 70% purity assures good quality.
  • Add On’s - Avoid lots of unnecessary additives and stick to clean products delivering primarily beta glucans for intended benefits.
  • Brand Reputation - Established manufacturers with rigorous quality testing and consistent clinical results inspire greater confidence in a genuine, effective product.
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