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Beta Glucans Review: Immune System Booster or Not?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Atmika Paudel, B. Pharm., MS Pharm. Biol., PhD

Beta glucans is a polysaccharide type of fiber that is typically extracted from shitake and maitake mushrooms and baker's yeast. It is also found in oats and barley.

However, the variety derived from oats and barley has what is known as a beta 1,3/1,4-glucan linkage. The type derived from mushrooms and bakers yeast has a beta-1,3/1,6-glucan. As you will read below, beta 1,3/1,6-glucan has the greatest effects in the body.

The best products are more effective if they use a purification process that removes the mannoproteins and yeast residues leaving pure 1,3/1,6 beta glucans.

What Are Beta Glucans Good For?

It stimulates immune function:

Beta glucans can be very beneficial because they stimulate neutrophil and macrophage activity throughout the body. These are the primary immune system cells responsible for removing yeasts and fungi of all kinds. They also attack foreign bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.

Beta glucans for yeast bind to phagocytes and macrophages at certain receptor sites, which activates their infection and tumor fighting abilities. It seems to cause these cells to produce free radicals which signals the white blood cells to engulf diseased tissues, bacteria, foreign pathogens, fungi, and tumor cells.

beta glucans

Researchers at Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital discovered that beta glucans for yeast caused the neutrophils to take a more direct route to the infection. This study seemed to indicate the enhanced ability of the neutrophils to detect foreign invaders in the body including yeast.

In a study done on anthrax and mice it was found that beta glucans for yeast stimulate the production and activation of white blood cells in the bone marrow. This results in higher levels of neutrophils and macrophages, which are the first immune system cells to defend against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.

There are many studies at the National Library of Medicine pertaining to the effectiveness of beta glucan for the immune system.

The beta glucans for yeast showed significant protective effects against against lethal doses of anthrax spores in controlled laboratory tests. Laboratory tests were performed on mice by the Chemical and Biological Defence Section, Defence R&D Canada.(Source).

There also have been over 1,600 research papers on Beta 1,3-D Glucan since the 1960s. Research from the prestigious medical schools of Harvard, Tulane, Baylor, and Washington Universities all attest to the immune activating properties of Beta Glucan.

Beta glucans for yeast has recently been included in testing by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in collaboration with the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Beta Glucan Helps With Cancer

According to doctors Adachi Y and Associates at the Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Science, beta glucan stimulates the production of cytokines used in cell-to-cell communication that stimulates the macrophages to inhibit tumor reproduction and to kill the tumor.(Source)

In scientific studies done on mice with cancer, mice treated with beta glucans had a 28% greater survival rate than those without.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1975 reported that nine cancer patients were injected with beta glucan directly into the tumor. All nine people had a reduction of tumor cells within five days and also experienced the subsequent destruction of the cancer from increased immune system activity.

Studies in Japan have seen a subsequent five to six-year longer life span of cancer patients that received the extract.

Beta glucan enhanced the survival rate and improved the white blood cell recovery rate in mice exposed to radiation.(Source)

A published JANA article also shows test data documenting over a 20% reduction in tumor weight after three weeks of beta glucan usage.

A 2017 study published in Pathology & Oncology Research on human lung cancer cells, showed strong anti-tumor properties of beta-glucan from oat and at the same time no toxicity for normal cells.(Source)

Beta Glucan Helps Reduce Cholesterol Levels

According to a recent double-blind, randomized, crossover study performed by Doctor DJ Jenkins and associates at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consumption of beta glucans fiber and psyllium four times daily is likely to significantly reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The study was so convincing, that the claim that these fibers "significantly reduced the chances of developing cardiovascular disease" was approved by the FDA.(Source)

Another published study at Pubmed that was performed by Department of Human Biology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, showed that these fibers effectively lower serum LDL cholesterol concentrations, without affecting HDL cholesterol.(Source)

So not only is beta-glucan good for immune function and cancer, the fiber also helps with cardiovascular health. This fact further solidifies the current medical consensus to make sure you eat enough dietary fiber every day. 

Beta Glucans Side Effects & Risks

Beta glucans are likely safe when taken by mouth at doses of less than 5 grams or 5,000mgs. Which is not an issue because most supplement manufacturers recommend 500mg once or twice a day. This puts you well under the medically recommended limit.

It should not be taken while pregnant. In doing so the possibility exists that the increased immune function could cause a miscarriage.

It is possible that the increased immune function caused by taking beta glucans could offset any prescription drugs, such as steroids, that reduce immune function. Please talk to your pharmacist about any interactions prior to taking this supplement.

The Best Beta Glucan Supplements

Remember this simple fact about the published research on Beta Glucans for Yeast:

There are absolutely NO published research on Beta Glucan with an active linkage below 80%. All the existing scientific research strongly points to the fact that any Beta Glucan product with an active linkage below 80% will not work!

The active linkage is simply the 1,3 and 1,6 linkage in the Beta Glucan product. If it's not 80% or higher, the product will not work.

Beta 1,3/1,6 Glucans will:

  • Supercharge your immune system to kill yeasts, fungi and pathogenic organisms.

  •  Increase cell-to-cell communication so it is easier for the immune system to identify foreign invaders and toxic cells.

  • Protect you from flu’s and other viruses.

  • Help the immune system remove cancer cells before it spreads.

  • Protect you from anthrax or other biological weapons in the event of a terrorist attack.

  •  Lower your risk of heart disease.

  • Reduce and help normalize LDL Cholesterol levels.

  •  Extend your life span by up to six years.

Immune Health Basics Beta Glucans is an outstanding Beta Glucans for yeast product that is very high quality. The yeast and mannoprotein residues have been removed so the product is more pure.

Medical Commentary by Dr. Atmika Paudel,
B. Pharm., MS Pharm. Biol., PhD

This is not an endorsement of any specific beta-glucans product, but to mention that the facts written in the article above about beta-glucan are correct and well-covered.

There is no doubt that we have been consuming beta-glucans in the form of our diet since time immemorial. Immune boosting, antimicrobial, and anti-tumor properties of beta-glucans have been well-studied and proven by many scientific literature's. Besides the facts presented in the article above, there have been recent advances in the study of biological activities of beta-glucans which I would like to include in my comments here.

Beta glucans and foods containing beta glucans have been reported to have antioxidant activity[1-3], meaning that they can scavenge the harmful radicals, thus preventing ageing and contributing to health as well as beauty. In addition, beta glucans have also been found to reduce systemic inflammation, renal injury and aortic calcification [4], provide cardio protection [5], and protect from testicular damage [6]; thus safeguarding our vital organs.

They are also reported to accelerate wound healing by regenerating rather than repairing the skin [7], and reduce blood glucose level indicating that beta glucans may alleviate diabetes [8].

Moreover, radioprotective properties were also reported [9]; beta-glucans enhanced the recovery of blood cell counts after gamma radiation [10].

Overall, beta-glucan have numerous benefits, and owing to their presence in everyday food products, relative safety has been established, however, it might interact with medications that suppress immune system, and not enough is known about its use during pregnancy and lactation.

Last Updated 12/21/2019

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If you have any questions about beta glucans or yeast infections in general, please feel free to contact us from the contact page of this website.

Dr. Paudel's References

1. Kofuji K, Aoki A, Tsubaki K, Konishi M, Isobe T, Murata Y. Antioxidant activity of β-glucan. ISRN Pharmaceutics 2012; 2012:5.
2. Özge Ö, Figen E. Beta-glucan content, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of some edible mushroom species. Food Science and Technology 2018; 6:47-55.
3. Brindzová L, Čertík M, Rapta P, Zalibera M, Mikulajová A, Takácsová M. Antioxidant activity, β-glucan and lipid contents of oat varieties. Czech J Food Sci 2008; 26:163-73.
4. Arcidiacono MV, Carrillo-López N, Panizo S, et al. Barley-ß-glucans reduce systemic inflammation, renal injury and aortic calcification through ADAM17 and neutral-sphingomyelinase2 inhibition. Scientific Reports 2019; 9:17810.
5. Casieri V, Matteucci M, Cavallini C, Torti M, Torelli M, Lionetti V. Long-term intake of pasta containing barley (1–3)beta-D-glucan increases neovascularization-mediated cardioprotection through endothelial upregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor and parkin. Scientific Reports 2017; 7:13424.
6. Koc F, Erısgın Z, Tekelıoglu Y, Takır S. The effect of beta glucan on MTX induced testicular damage in rats. Biotechnic & Histochemistry 2018; 93:70-5.
7. Muthuramalingam K, Choi SI, Hyun C, Kim YM, Cho M. β-glucan-based wet dressing for cutaneous wound healing. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle) 2019; 8:125-35.
8. Wolever TMS, Tosh SM, Spruill SE, et al. Increasing oat β-glucan viscosity in a breakfast meal slows gastric emptying and reduces glycemic and insulinemic responses but has no effect on appetite, food intake, or plasma ghrelin and PYY responses in healthy humans: a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2019.
9. Liu F, Wang Z, Liu J, Li W. Radioprotective effect of orally administered beta-d-glucan derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules 2018; 115:572-9.
10. Patchen ML, MacVittie TJ. Stimulated hemopoiesis and enhanced survival following glucan treatment in sublethally and lethally irradiated mice. International Journal of Immunopharmacology 1985; 7:923-32.

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