BetaGlucans – Immunity
What is Beta-Glucan?
Beta glucan is a type of fiber that’s responsible for many of the health-promoting properties of foods like oats, wheat, and barley.
It has been studied extensively for its effects on heart health and cholesterol levels, as well as been shown to boost immunity and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Beta glucan is a specific form of soluble dietary fiber. It’s found in the cell walls of certain types of plants and some yeasts, bacteria, fungi, and algae. You can also find it in supplement form.
It has been linked to a long list of potential health benefits and studied extensively for its ability to lower cholesterol levels, decrease inflammation, improve blood sugar management, and more (2Trusted Source).
Beta-glucans are fiber-type polysaccharides (complex sugars) found in a variety of different food sources including yeast, oat bran, barley fiber, medicinal mushrooms (such as maitake and reishi), algae, and seaweeds.
Like other types of soluble fiber, beta glucan slows the passage of food as it travels through your intestines.
Additionally, this fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol in your digestive tract to support healthy blood cholesterol levels and heart health.
Beta glucan has been linked to a variety of health benefits.
Boosts heart health
Several studies have found that beta glucan may promote heart health and protect against heart disease.
In fact, in 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim stating that beta glucan from whole oats, oat bran, and whole oat flour might reduce the risk of heart disease (4Trusted Source).
According to one study, consuming 3 grams of beta glucan per day for 8 weeks decreased levels of LDL cholesterol by 15% and reduced total cholesterol by nearly 9% (7Trusted Source).
Beta glucan is also rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that can help neutralize harmful free radicals, prevent inflammation, and protect against chronic conditions like heart disease (8Trusted Source).
Regulates blood sugar levels
Some research suggests that beta glucan could improve blood sugar management.
According to a review of 4 studies, taking 2.5–3.5 grams of beta glucan daily for 3–8 weeks can reduce fasting blood sugar levels and improve long-term blood sugar regulation in people with type 2 diabetes (9Trusted Source).
Other studies have found that adding beta glucan to carb-containing meals might reduce blood sugar and insulin levels after eating (10Trusted Source).
What’s more, another large review reported that consuming more cereal fiber, including beta glucan, could be associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (11Trusted Source).
Stimulates the immune system
Although more research in humans is needed, some studies suggest that beta glucan could benefit immune health.
More specifically, beta glucan has been shown to increase the activity of certain types of immune cells, including macrophages, neutrophils, and monocytes (13Trusted Source).
Plus, other test-tube and animal studies have shown that beta glucan may reduce levels of several markers used to measure inflammation, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Beta glucan may promote heart health, stabilize blood sugar levels, and stimulate immune function.
Beta glucan supplements are often used to enhance heart health, as they can reduce levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
In some cases, beta glucan is even applied topically to accelerate wound healing and tissue repair (18Trusted Source).
What’s more, this fiber is sometimes used as a natural treatment for cancer, thanks to its ability to stimulate the activity of immune cells in your body (19Trusted Source).
However, because most research on the effects of beta glucan on cancer is limited to test-tube and animal studies, more studies in humans are needed.
beta glucan supplements may interfere with certain medications, including immunosuppressants and those used to treat diabetes or high blood pressure (20).
Lastly, taking a fiber supplement, including beta glucan, can cause digestive side effects like nausea, bloating, or diarrhea in some individuals — especially if you’re not used to eating much fiber (21Trusted Source).
Not All Beta-Glucans Are The Same
Some studies have shown that beta-glucan extracted from yeast has had the best overall benefit to immune health.
The beta-glucan of yeast, especially baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) consists of a long beta-glucan core with branching side chains of other very specific lengths of other beta-glucans (beta-1,3-glucan and beta-1,6-glucan). Mushrooms like maitake also have beta-glucans with (beta-1,3-glucan and beta-1,6-glucan) side chains, but these side chains are much shorter than those of yeast. Beta-glucans in oats, barley, and rye have a linear chain of beta -1,3-glucan and beta-1,4-glucan.
These more simple forms of beta-glucans have shown great dietary fiber and cholesterol-lowering benefits, but do not have the same immune-enhancing effects as yeast and maitake beta-glucans.
The Benefits of Beta-Glucan on the Immune System
A major health benefit of beta-glucan, especially of the yeast and maitake mushroom varieties, is on the immune system. This has been extensively researched in the medical literature with literally thousands of preclinical studies detailing the unique benefits of beta-glucan. It turns out that our white blood cells actually have receptor sites on their cell surfaces for yeast and maitake beta-glucan. Just like a lock on a door is opened with only the right key, these receptor sites are specific to the structural makeup of the beta-glucan. When the yeast or maitake beta-glucan binds to the receptor it activates white blood cells in very specific ways to help fight off invading organisms. Here are the specific effects of yeast and maitake beta-glucan on the immune system:
- Increases levels of secretory Immunoglobulin A (IgA). This protective substance lines the mucus membranes of our body, e.g., the nasal passages, throat, airways, gastrointestinal tract, vagina, and urethra. Low levels of secretory IgA are associated with an increased risk of infection.
- Activates macrophages. These are specialized white blood cells that have taken up residence in specific tissues like the lining of mucus membranes, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. Macrophages perform two vital functions. They act as garbage collectors to phagocytize or engulf foreign particles including bacteria and cellular debris. During that process macrophages analyze the threat to the immune system and, if necessary, send out chemical messages to other white blood to mount the response. So, in essence, yeast beta-glucan primes the entire immune system to function optimally.
- Activates monocytes. Monocytes are macrophages (garbage collectors) that circulate in the blood performing the same functions including being responsible for triggering many immune responses.
- Activates neutrophils. These cells also act as garbage collectors that actively engulf and destroy bacteria, tumor cells, and dead particulate matter. Neutrophils are especially important in preventing bacterial infection.
- Enhance natural killer (NK) cells. These cells are given the name because of their ability to destroy cells that have become cancerous or infected with viruses. The level of activity of natural killer cells in chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, and chronic viral infections is usually low.
Clinical Studies on Yeast Beta-Glucan: Epicor and Wellmune
There are several different commercial forms of yeast beta-glucan. Clinical research exists on two special preparations produced from Baker’s yeast via proprietary processes more commonly known as Epicor and Wellmune. The dosages for both these forms of yeast beta-glucan is 500 mg daily, usually taken as 250 mg twice daily.
Epicor and Wellmune have proven to be effective in boosting immune function in humans in a total of over 20 clinical trials. Benefits noted are through the mechanisms discussed above on secretory IgA and the activation or enhancement of specific white blood cells and overall immune functions.
The clinical results from these studies with EpiCor and Wellmune show many effects useful in preventing upper respiratory tract infections (colds and the flu). EpiCor supplementation at a dosage of 500 mg daily had a beneficial effect on reducing the incidence of cold and flu symptoms in patients who either received or did not receive a flu shot. Wellmune at a dosage of 500 mg daily has also shown benefits in fighting off cold and flu symptoms in double-blind studies.
Beta Glucans improve immunity by feeding the good bacteria in the gut and giving fuel for the rapidly growing cells of the immune system. The NOW product has added arabinogalactan which further benefits the immune system.”
As an adjunct to cancer therapy, studies have proven its efficacy. I am a cancer patient and have taken Beta Gluten as well as NAC for a few years now. My oncologist says to keep on doing what I’m doing, as I have steady progress.”
“both immunity support & for lowering LDL cholesterol”
“Beta glucans is recommended by Doug Kaufmann which means it must be good”
“I took Beta-Glucans in December 2020 when I suffered from Covoid -19 together with aspirin 100mg. The disease lasted only 4 days, as the mild flu, and I was back running 7 days after isolation. No fatigue, performance loss, breathing/lung problems and any other side effects besides partial loss of smell and taste returned after three months. Excellent immune booster.”
Helps increase white blood cell count.
“This product does give me more energy. I take it for high cholesterol and it has helped reduce this considerably and to a safer level. It also aids me with my heart condition”
“It is very important to take it on an empty stomach, preferable in the morning and wait for at least half an hour before eating. Then repeat the same at lunch time. I haven’t heard of any side effects. Another thing: combine it with olive leaf extract = the combination of the two together is more potent.”
“Oats contain the soluble fibre Beta-Glucans. Think of it as providing food for your good gut bacteria and improve your gut flora over time.”
“My mom is an asthmatic, 73 yrs, and has always been prone to all sorts of winter season health issues and spring/summer pollen allergies. I bought her the first bottle of NOW foods beta glucans (100mg option) 2,5 years ago and she’s been taking 1 capsule daily ever since. I can’t remember the last time she had a cold of a flu. This season I’ve decided to go for the 250mg option, just to be on the safer side because of all this covid mayhem. So far she’s perfectly healthy 🙂 and she does go to the store and the church and uses public transportation.. Also, something I only recently realized: her blood sugar and cholesterol levels dropped to normal after years of being elevated. It is said that beta glucans can have that effect. So, it’s a double score for us! She takes vitamin C and Omegas also, and has dropped a couple of pounds, so I’m sure it was synergy of all those elements. As for immunity – beta glucans rule!”
“I have been using this product for a long time because of autoimmune condition (Hashimoto) and I am satisfied with it because it is additive-free and of high quality. My mother also takes it regularly to boost her immune system, as unfortunately she had her spleen removed due to cancer, so she has a very weak immune system. Beta Glucan strengthens the killer cells that are usually weak in cancer patients (which is why the tumor can develop), they are the so-called T-cells that are responsible for killing the tumor cells. It has worked very well for both of us so far. “
“Was tested positive for high risk HPV 16 and 18 in March 2021. During 6 months took 2 pills of Beta Glucan + 6 pills of AHCC every morning 1 hour before breakfast and just received the new test result that all HPV are negative. Plus during this time didn’t catch a cold and felt very good.”
“One of my best nutrients for immun health alongside Selenium, Astragalus, Monolaurin, vitamins A,C,D. Some studies have also showed promising effecting in combination with Ubiquinol.”
“Bought to restore my close relative’s immune system which was badly ruined by 2 shots and a booster of COVID vaccine – should do the job”.