Beta Glucan Health Benefits and Information

Beta-glucan is a fiber-type polysaccharide (sugar compound) that comes from the cellular wall of yeast, oat and barley fiber, and many edible mushrooms, such as maitake.

Beta-glucan is primarily used to enhance the immune system and to lower cholesterol levels. Research indicates that beta-glucan is very effective at activating white blood cells known as macrophages and neutrophils, both of which provide the immune system's first lines of defense against foreign material in the body. A beta-glucan-activated macrophage or neutrophil can recognize and kill tumor cells, remove cellular debris resulting from oxidative damage, speed up recovery of damaged tissue, and further activate other components of the immune system. Although promising, there is no concrete evidence that beta-glucan as an oral supplement can enhance immune function in humans.

Beta-glucan is a key component of the cholesterol-lowering effect of oat bran. As with other soluble-fiber components, the binding of cholesterol by beta-glucan and the resulting elimination of these molecules in the feces is very helpful for reducing blood cholesterol.

By postponing initial digestion, beta-glucan is may be helpful in reducing the elevation of post-meal blood sugar levels and may quite possibly be able to increase tissue sensitivity to insulin. These effects indicate possible benefit in blood sugar control in people with diabetes.

Dosage Recommendations

The amount of beta-glucan prescribed in clinical trials has ranged from 2,900 to 15,000 mg per day for lower cholesterol levels. For boosting immune function, an amount is not known.

Manufacturers of beta-glucan products recommend between 50 to 100 mg daily (to be taken on an empty stomach), although some products contain as much as 500 mg per capsule.