The number of beta glucan benefits seem almost limitless. The research about its effect on cancer, allergies, and enhancing immunity is profound, but you need to be sure you’re supplementing with the right product.
Table of Contents
What is Beta Glucan?
Beta glucan is the heart-healthy fiber that has inspired thousands of doctors to recommend Cheerios for heart heart. Found in the cell walls of bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and the bran of some cereal grains, it also so happens to be the #1 most researched immune supplement on the planet with more than 150,000 peer-reviewed articles evaluating its therapeutic efficacy.
The difference between Cheerios and the immune-boosting supplement is that the source comes from bakers yeast (not grains).
As a polysaccharide and fiber, beta glucan’s molecular structure is formed as a strand, with periodic branches along the chain. Formulations of beta glucan for skin are indicated by the point at which the branches occur, such as beta (1,3) (1,4) glucan, or beta (1,3) (1,6) glucan.
While we refer to beta (1,3) D-glucan, the bioactive form most commonly used for high quality supplements, as simply beta glucan, read the supplement labels to be sure of the specific kind of beta glucan that you are taking. A tainted source or an ineffective type of beta glucan will not be effective in helping the immune system, metabolic, or respiratory benefits. (1)
Importance of Sourcing
Beta glucans have shown significant health benefits, but the source of the beta glucan fiber plays a key role in the areas where it provides the most benefit. Studies using distinct beta glucan sources have shown that those found in oats, yeast and mushrooms each provide their own benefits (2):
- Glucans from cereals are the simplest structures, with linear beta (1,3;1,4)-D-lucans
- Yeast, fungi, and certain bacteria provide branched beta (1,4;1,6)-D-glucans (3)
- These differences, along with the lengths of the branches, the charges of the polymers, solubility, and the conformation all have an impact on how well they perform in biological activities.
When researching and evaluating glucans, the data shows the differences between the types and sources, which allows for a greater understanding of how each type performs different processes in the body (4). Some forms, such as those sourced from barley, have been found to provide protection against chemotherapies.
Beta glucan sources from some plants have shown beneficial effects in heart health and lowering cholesterol, while fungal sources have proven beneficial in glucose intolerance, cancer diabetes, and other metabolic issues. Studies have also shown that specific beta glucan sources provide additional benefits in multiple areas, versus individual processes.
Scientific literature has clearly shown that beta glucan sources from baker’s yeast exhibit the most benefits in multiple areas, leading researchers to focus even more on this source in more recent studies. Yeast glucans have shown considerable promise in the following areas:
- Controlling post-surgery infection in high risk patients
- Decreased inflammation due to allergic rhinitis
- Decreased reliance on IV antibiotics and ICU stays after surgery
- Decreased tissue damage due to arthritis
- Improved wound healing
- Increase in cancer-killing neutrophils
- Protection against infectious diseases
- Protection against radiation exposure
- Reduced mortality due to cancer in rats
- Reduction in septic shock
- Shorter reaction time to infectious materials
My family and I enjoy beta glucan from our good friends at Better Way Health. We know the owners very well and believe in them, their mission and that their product is one of the purest (if not THE purest) on the market!
5 Health Benefits
Of the 150,000+ studies evaluating the many health benefits of beta glucan, these five areas show the most promise.
Studies have shown that the fiber in beta glucan helps to increase cytokines response which regulates the immune system response in breast, stomach, and colorectal cancers. These studies have concluded that some forms of beta glucan may be beneficial in helping to reduce the size of cancerous tumors, as well as helping to prevent the growth and development of them. (5)
Japanese studies have shown that beta glucan ingestion in mice led to an increase in the white blood cells known as neutrophils that help to destroy cancer cells in tumors.
More than its antioxidant effects, beta glucan may be an even stronger ally against skin cancer. In lab tests, beta glucan has shown antitumor effects, telling the body to stop the process that builds tumors. At an even more basic level, it has shown itself as antimutagenic, which would cause the faulty cells from mutating in the first place!
2. Heart Health
The heart healthy benefits of eating oats is due to the levels of beta glucan that oats contains. Studies have shown that regular daily intake of a minimum of three grams of beta glucan sources can help reduce high LDL cholesterol levels by as much as seven percent (6).
Even with taking lower dosages of the extract, both males and females who participated in the studies showed much lower total cholesterol levels after five weeks.
For more than a century, beta glucan sources have been studied because of their ability to regulate the immune system. They have been shown to increase the activity of the pathogen-fighting immune cells known as macrophages.
Glucans communicate with these cells which results in an increase in the number and size of B-Cells, T-Cells, and NK-Cells, which are the cells that control the fighting off of viruses, bacteria, and microbes. There is also evidence that glucans activate lymphocytes, which increases the amount of cells that destroy viruses and tumor cells.
Over-prescribed antibiotics have led to an increase in viruses and bacteria that are resistant to traditional treatments. According to a study performed in Nigeria, beta glucan benefits have a notable effect on bacterial infections such as Escherichia coli.
Additional studies have shown that the best source of beta glucans kills bacteria that is in the blood and that the introduction of yeast beta glucans protects against sepsis. When given after serious wounds or surgery, beta glucans have also been shown to reduce the chances of infection, and reduces the effects of upper respiratory tract infections.
Typically in capsule form, beta glucan supplements are absorbed by the intestinal tract and used where needed throughout the body. This may seem contrary to any benefit to the skin, but remember that the body functions as a unit, so the health of the body internally is reflected on the skin just as the skin filters out toxins from the body and when it heals from wounds.
The reestablishment of skin tissue where the wound occurred is part of the wound healing process. With multiple layers and types of cells, skin is more than what we see. As a wound heals, the layers are rebuilt, including the collagen fibers which are strands that help glowing skin retain its elasticity.
Researchers have found glucan receptors in this part of the skin, which demonstrates that beta glucan can impact the rebuilding of collagen after a wound. (7) Pure, carefully chosen sources of beta glucan appear to have major effects on this rebuilding process. When researchers in 2011 evaluated the cell regeneration process after a scratch, beta glucan advanced healing substantially, restoring cells and bridging the gap that the scratch had left. (8)
Additionally, glucans have also been found to be very effective at healing skin conditions such as bedsores, dermatitis, diabetic ulcers, eczema, wounds, radiation burns, and even wrinkles.
More on Immune Benefits & Cancer
Beta glucans contain noticeable “immunomodulating activity” that increase our “immune defense by activating complement systems, enhancing macrophages and natural killer cell function.” (9)
In laymen’s terms, this means that beta glucan can improve your immune response like no other, and are used for a wide variety of medicinal reasons: (10)
- Common colds/flu
- Crohn’s disease
- Ear infections
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel disease
- Liver problems
- Lyme diseas
- Multiple sclerosis
- Physical and emotional stress
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Viral infections (HPV, HIV/AIDS, and others)
Their effect on cancer is especially interesting because they have been shown clinically to prevent metastasis in a variety of ways:
- Cytotoxicity – By stimulating white blood cells (macrophages & natural killer cells) to stop tumor growth.
- Anti-angiogenesis – Preventing cancer cells from developing the network of blood vessels that is required to feed tumors.
- Treatment Restoration – Reversing the damage done by chemo and radiation therapies, glucans restore bone marrow injury by stimulating red blood cell production.
Interestingly, “In contrast to microorganisms, tumor cells, as well as other host cells, lack beta glucan as a surface component.” This may be one reason why cancer is so vulnerable to beta glucan supplementation.
Still, few people understand why and how the benefits of beta glucan work. Czech researchers state it the best, “Despite almost 150 years of research, the exact mechanisms of their action remain unclear. (11)
More information about glucans has recently been added to the mystery: The number and type of glucans seem limitless. The University of Louisville, Department of Pathology states, “The number of individual glucans is almost as great as the number of sources used for their isolation.”
On the reverse side, there are a very limited number of naturally occurring beta glucan sources that consist of:
- Edible mushrooms (Chaga, Shitake, Maitake, Wood cauliflower, and snow mushrooms)
If you don’t like eating mushrooms, consider this mushroom coffee replacement drink. It’s delicious!
Beta Glucan & Kids
Our goal is to help our children consume their vitamins and minerals in whole foods, though, we need to be realistic. It’s difficult for kids (and adults) to get every nutrient necessary through diet alone, thanks to food growing operations, costs, and availability problems, including picky eating!
This is why we have our kids take BetaKids as a regular part of their natural health routine.
Filled Beta 1,3D Glucan, Selenium, Vitamin D, BetaKIDS is an immune support supplement that our kids LOVE because it’s super tasty. We love it because it’s:
- Made with natural ingredients and sweeteners
- Contains no artificial coloring or flavoring
- Preservative-free and has no GMOs
- Contains no gluten or lactose
We get our BetaKids from our friends at Better Way Health. Check it out HERE and get our Natural Living Family discount!
As a preventative for many common childhood complaints, beta glucan covers your kids’ bases while navigating a healthy childhood, which is why we recommend it for young and old alike for:
- Immune system support
- Help for allergy sufferers
- Aids the respiratory system
- Healthy heart benefits
- Prevention of obesity
All of these issues play an important role in preventing or improving childhood illness. Not only is prevention important for their health now, but also for their continued health as they grow up. Protecting our kids’ immune systems and preventing chronic illness in childhood sets them up for a lifetime of health.
As the studies evaluating children and beta glucan for kids were developed and analyzed, author Vetvicka Vaclav notes,
“Properly functioning immune system is crucial to defend against all invading pathogens, including common cold viruses. Currently, yeast-derived glucans were confirmed to have beneficial effects against common cold and respiratory symptoms (Talbott and Talbott, 2012; Auinger et al., 2013) and against allergy symptoms… In addition, glucan was found to significantly improve the immunosuppression caused by various toxins (Vetvicka and Vetvickova, 2012), making it an optimal molecule for children from environmentally poluted areas.” [sic]
Beta glucan, as a food derivative, is considered safe and has not displayed toxicity in supplement form. (12) However, pure, high quality supplements are vital to ensure effectiveness.
The studies mentioned here for children’s use of beta glucan used 100mg doses, but the manufacturer’s recommendation should always take precedent.
Potential Side Effects & Contraindications
In essence, the main “side effect” of beta glucan is that it assists your body to heal from sickness and disease.
The majority of clinical trials conducted on animals and humans have not uncovered any adverse effects related to taking beta glucans whatsoever.
For example, a 13-week clinical trial uncovered that when a maximum deliverable oral dose was administered to rats, there were no harmful effects measured whatsoever.
When people take them orally, they are well tolerated and are considered by the FDA to be generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
However, when administered intravenously, it has been reported that “Beta-glucans may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, hives, flushing, rash, high or low blood pressure, or excessive urination.” (14) Intravenous administration has also been associated with lung inflammation.
Beta glucan benefits include being one of the most effective supporters of all around gut health, which can lead to better immunity, improved cardiovascular health and a lower risk of obesity. Always remember to check with your healthcare provider before taking immune-boosting supplements like beta glucan, especially Beta-1, 3D Glucan.
Glucans are so successful at enhancing immune function that they can literally work against immune-suppressing drugs that autoimmune patients regularly take.
If you plan on purchasing Beta-1, 3D Glucan for a family member or friend, make sure that they are not taking any of these immune depressing drugs:
- Azathioprine (Imuran)
- Basiliximab (Simulect)
- Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
- Daclizumab (Zenapax)
- Muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3)
- Mycophenolate (CellCept)
- Tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf)
- Sirolimus (Rapamune)
- Prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone)
- Corticosteroids (glucocorticoids) and others.
An article published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology stresses this point:
“In addition, variations in β-glucan structure and composition are highly dependent on the particular method by which a β-glucan preparation is processed or manufactured, and these variations can have a significant impact on their respective immune stimulatory activity an effect that also could lead to significant toxicity when crude preparations are used therapeutically.”
Beta glucan is a gentle supplement that can be taken daily as our helper regarding our body’s systems and functions, but it’s important to remember that not all glucan products on the market are created equal. It is very important to stay away from synthetic varieties with harmful fillers.
Try beta glucan for yourself and enjoy our Natural Living Family discount!
Beta glucan is one form of soluble dietary fiber that’s strongly linked to improving cholesterol levels and boosting heart health. Like many fibers, it’s available in supplement form. As with any supplement, make sure you purchase Beta-1, 3D Glucan from a trusted source and under the guidance of your natural health care provider.