What’s the beta-glucan?

β-glucan is a polysaccharide widely found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, algae, and plants such as barley and oat. It is held together by several different types of beta-glycosidic bonds, forming linear or branching structures. For example, cereals (oats and barley) have a (1,3/1,4) linkage pattern, while β -glucans from fungal sources (mushrooms and yeast) have a (1,3/1,6) linkage pattern, and they each have different side-chain branches attached to the trunk. The number and length of the side chain branches have been shown to be important for biological activity. In general, the higher the branches, the stronger the biological activity, and often claimed effects include: enhanced immunity, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and wound-healing.

What are the benefits of beta-glucan?

  1. Beneficial for upper respiratory tract infections

Upper respiratory tract infection (URI) is one of the most common diseases, including rhinitis, sinusitis, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, and the common cold. It is mainly caused by the influenza virus, adenovirus, rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and many other viruses. In the literature, yeast β -glucan significantly reduced the incidence, average number of episodes, duration, and symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections compared with placebo. Yeast β -glucan was well tolerated and generally safe. (Note: Due to the small sample size and high heterogeneity of included studies, further verification is needed)

  1. Beneficial to diabetic blood glucose control

Diabetes Mellitus is a metabolic disorder caused by insufficient insulin secretion or insulin action, leading to chronic hyperglycemia and its complications such as vascular alterations, myocardial infarction, kidney disease, retinopathy and neuropathy. Intake of oat β -glucan (2.5g to 3.5g daily) for 3 to 8 weeks was shown to significantly improve glycemic control, such as reducing Fasting Plasma Glucose and HbA1c concentration. (Note: Due to the heterogeneity of the study, further verification is still needed)

  1. Beneficial to lipid regulation

Cholesterol levels above normal reference values are a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. A reduction in total cholesterol of 1mmol/L in adults 40 to 49 years of age was associated with a 56% reduction in the hazard ratio for ischaemic heart disease. Treatment for dyslipidemia includes dietary and lifestyle interventions, surgical treatment, and lipid-lowering drugs (including statins, fibroic acid derivatives, bile acid binding resins, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, etc.). β -glucan intake (daily dose ≥3g for at least 3 weeks) was associated with a reduction in total cholesterol (-0.27mmol/L) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (-0.26mmol/L). In addition, subgroup analysis further showed that food substrates combining “solid products” and “liquid products” together were considered to be the best way to exploit their beneficial properties. (Note: Due to the heterogeneity of the study, further verification is still needed)

  1. Good for weight loss

Obesity is an abnormal accumulation of body fat (typically more than 20% of normal ideal body weight) that may have adverse health effects. Adipose tissue has a unique structure, it can accumulate is essential to the inflammation of activated macrophages, in part through the release of cell factors such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha), interleukin – 6, when too much fat tissue often leads to increased inflammation, often associated with and the development of chronic diseases, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Intake of products containing β -glucan in the intervention group reduced body weight and body mass index (BMI). In addition, subgroup analysis showed an increase in total energy intake at daily doses of more than 4 grams. (Note: Due to the heterogeneity of the study, further verification is still needed)

  1. Adjuvant treatment of cancer

Clinically, chemotherapy for cancer patients is usually based on drug indications, recommended doses, duration of treatment and adverse reactions (such as nephrotoxicity and hepattoxicity). Chemotherapy drugs cause adverse reactions and are sometimes difficult to prevent. Adding natural compounds to cancer chemotherapy can amplify the therapeutic effect of chemotherapeutic drugs and reduce the occurrence of chemotherapeutic resistance.

Concomitant administration of β -glucan with chemotherapy or radiotherapy may reduce therapy-induced immunosuppression or accelerate recovery of white blood cell counts. However, some studies did not account for statistical differences between the β -glucan treatment group and the control group. (Note: Due to the heterogeneity of the study, further verification is still needed)

The side effects and contraindication of beta-glucan

Oral beta-glucan is safe in most adults at appropriate doses. Possible side effects or adverse reactions include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Possible side effects or adverse reactions during injection include chills, fever, pain at the injection site, headache, back pain, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, enlarged lymph nodes, diarrhea, dizziness, high or low blood pressure, flushing, rash, fatigue, leukopenia and increased urine.

  1. Do not use it in pregnant and lactating women (due to unknown safety);
  2. Use with caution in patients with AIDS or AIDS-related syndromes. There have been patients who developed keratoderma of the palms and soles of the feet after intravenous injection of soluble glucan. This may occur within 2 weeks of treatment and then disappear 2 to 4 weeks after discontinuation;
  3. Please avoid using immunosuppressants, because some β -glucan has the effect of enhancing the immune system, which may affect the efficacy of drugs, common related drugs are: Azathioprine, basiliximab, cyclosporine, Daclizumab, muromonab-CD3, Mycophenolate, TACR. Azathioprine, Basiliximab, cyclosporine, Daclizumab, Muromonab-CD3, Mycophenolate Olimus, Sirolimus, Prednisone, corticosteroids;
  4. Patients with diabetes or taking related hypoglycemic drugs, please use with caution, as β -glucan may have hypoglycemic effects;
  5. Use with caution in patients with high blood pressure or taking related blood pressure-lowering drugs, as β -glucan may have potensive effects.
Ye Tao