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Beta 1,3 1,6 Glucan

      Beta glucan is a polysaccharide derived from the cell wall of baker's yeast, oat and barley fiber, and many medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake. Yeast and mushrooms contain a mixture of beta 1,3 glucan and beta 1,6 glucan. Oats and barley contain a mixture of beta 1,3 glucan and beta 1,4 glucan. Some products may be listed as beta 1,3 1,6 glucan in the case of yeast-derived products and as beta 1,3 1,4 glucan when derived from oats.

Beta Glucan Enhances Immune Function

      Literally hundreds of studies have shown that beta 1,3 glucan in particular activates macrophages and neutrophils. Exactly which molecular versions of beta 1,3 glucans are more effective and which sources are best is unclear.

      Macrophages are the oldest and most primitive of the immune system components and provide one of the first lines of defense against infectious organisms. Macrophages recognize, engulf and digest invading microorganisms, cellular debris and cancer cells. They are the "pac men" of the immune system. (1,2,3,4,5,6) In addition to the activation of macrophages, it appears that beta 1,3 glucan also has receptors on human dermal fibroblasts. It appears that some of the beta 1,3 functional activity may be due to its interaction with non-immune cells in the body. (10)

      Beta 1, 3 glucans appear to have immune modulation effects on a broad scale. Some studies show that beta 1, 3 glucans increase the production of cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor and certain subsets of T-lymphocytes. These results suggest that beta 1, 3 glucans enhance both non-specific host defense and cellular immune response. (7,8) Toxins from either infections cause leukocytes to release pro-inflammatory cytokines that can produce a series of biochemical events that ends in septic shock. Administration of soluble beta-1, 3/1/6 glucans reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which reduces mortality.(9)

Beta 1,3 Glucan Protects Against Radiation Exposure

      In a controlled study done at the US Armed Forces Radiobiology Institute, 70% of rats given a lethal dose of radiation were completely protected from radiation effects when given a dose of yeast beta glucan by mouth after the radiation exposure. Beta glucan is a free radical scavenger. It is able to protect blood macrophages from free radical attack during and after the radiation allowing these cells to continue to function in the irradiated body and release factors important to the restoration of normal bone marrow production. (11,12)

Beta Glucan Lowers Cholesterol

      Beta glucan is the key factor for the cholesterol-lowering effect of oat bran.(13,14,15,16,17) As with other soluble-fiber components, the binding of cholesterol by beta glucan and the resulting elimination of these molecules in the feces is helps reduce blood cholesterol.(18,19,20) Results from a number of double-blind trials with either oat- or yeast-derived beta-glucan indicate typical reductions, after at least four weeks of use, of approximately 10% for total cholesterol and 8% for LDL ("bad") cholesterol, with elevations in HDL ("good") cholesterol ranging from zero to 16%.(21,22,23,24,25)

Beta Glucans Reduce Glycemic Effect

      Like other sources of soluble fiber, beta glucan is helpful in reducing the elevation in blood sugar levels that typically follow a meal.(26,27,28,29) Beta glucan reduces the elevation of blood sugar by delaying gastric emptying so that dietary sugar is absorbed more gradually.

Beta Glucan Dosage

      Beta 1, 3 glucans do not occur naturally in humans. There is, therefore, no established minimum daily requirements.

      For lowering cholesterol levels, the amount of beta-glucan used in clinical trials has ranged from 2,900 to 15,000 mg per day. For enhancing immune function, an effective amount has not yet been determined. Manufacturers of beta glucan products usually recommend between 50 and 1,000 mg daily.

      For best results, beta 1, 3 glucans should be taken on an empty stomach. Beta 1,3 glucans are transported across the intestinal cell wall into the lymph where they begin to interact with macrophages to activate immune function.(30) Studies have verified that both small and large fragments of beta glucans are found in the serum, indicating that they are absorbed from the intestinal tract.(31)

Beta Glucan Safety and Side Effects

      Although side effects are rare, occasionally an allergic reaction is reported.(32,33)

      Beta glucans are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Beta glucans are considered safe and non-toxic. (34)

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Beta Glucan References

      The references for this article on Beta Glucan can be viewed Here.






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