Table of Contents > Herbs & Supplements > Beta-glucan Print

Beta-glucan

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Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • 1-3,1-6-Beta-glucan, (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan, 1,3-beta-D-glucan, (1,3)-beta-D-glucan, 1,3-beta-glucan, 1,3-beta-glucans, (1-6,1-3)-beta-glucan, 7alpha-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one, amylodextrins, baker's yeast, barley, Barley Balance®, beta glycans, beta-(1-3),(1-6)-D-glucan, beta-1,3/1,6-glucan, beta-1,3-D-glucan, beta-1,3-glucan, beta-1,3-glucans, beta-1-6,1,3-beta-glucan, beta-(1,6) branched beta-(1,3)-glucan, beta-glucan collagen (BGC) matrix, beta-glucanase, beta-glucans, beta-glucosidase, beta-glucuronsidase, beta-glycans, Betafectin®, Biointo, carbossimetyl beta glucan, chitin-glucan, curdlan, curdlan sulfates, d-fraction, G. grandosa, grifolan (GRN), griton-d(r) (GD), GlucagelT, gluco polysaccharide, Imunoglukan®, lentinan, Lentinex®, MacroForce plus IP6, maitake mushroom, Nutrim®-OB, oat beta-glucan, oat fiber, oat fibre, oat gum, OatVantage®, PGG glucan, PGG-glucan, Plantago major L., pleuran, poly-[1-6]-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-[1-3]-beta-D-glucopyranose, poly-[1-6]--D-glucopyranosyl-[1-3]--D-glucopyranose glucan, Poria cocos sclerotium, Primaliv museli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, schizophyllan (SPG), Sparassis crispa, SSG, Wellmune WGP®, WPG®3-6, yeast-derived beta-glucan, yeast extract.
  • Note: Other Natural Standard bottom lines are available for barley, brewer's yeast, maitake mushroom, oats, Saccharomyces boulardi, salep, and shiitake mushroom.

Background
  • Beta-glucan is a fiber that comes from the cell walls of algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and plants. It is an edible plant part that is not digested or absorbed by the intestine.
  • Concentrated beta-glucan from yeast is easier to include in food products, compared to oat or barley beta-glucan. Yeast beta-glucan does not dissolve in water. When purified, it is easier to absorb than natural beta-glucan.
  • Making healthy changes in the diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition to reducing fat and cholesterol intake, adding fiber such as beta-glucan, may help lower cholesterol. Usually, several servings a day of these products are needed to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) claim of reducing heart disease risk.
  • There is strong evidence to support the use of beta-glucan in lowering cholesterol.
  • Many studies suggest that oat bran diets, barley, and barley products enriched with beta-glucan may improve blood sugar and insulin levels in type 2 diabetics.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Many studies have looked at the effects of beta-glucan on cholesterol. Small reductions in levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol have been reported. Few significant changes have been found in levels of triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol.

A


Evidence suggests that supplementing with beta-glucan may help reduce the number and severity of ragweed allergy symptoms. More high-quality research is needed in this area.

B


Whole grains such as beta-glucan have been studied for possible benefit in preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Beta-glucan has been studied for effects on blood sugar control with promising results. Larger high-quality trials are needed before a firm conclusion can be made in this area.

B


Some diseases, such as heart disease, may increase oxidative stress. Oats have been found to have antioxidant benefits. However, a study suggests that beta-glucan may lack an effect on oxidative stress. More research is needed in this area.

C


Early study suggests that a combination treatment containing beta-glucan and collagen may benefit burns. This treatment may reduce pain, promote healing, and improve scar appearance, as well as eliminate painful daily dressing changes and decrease fluid loss. However, conflicting results have been found. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

C


Whole grains such as beta-glucan have been studied for possible benefit in preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Studies have looked at a combination of beta-glucan and anti-tumor monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for cancer treatment. Beta-glucan may help improve quality of life and prolong life when used with chemotherapy in people with stomach cancer. More information is needed on the effects of beta-glucan alone.

C


Early evidence suggests that beta-glucan may improve the number, size, duration, and pain in people who with recurrent canker sores. Although promising, high-quality research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.

C


Studies have looked at the use of beta-glucan as a tool to detect fungal infections. However, early research has found conflicting results. More research is needed in this area to support the role of beta-glucan in disease diagnosis.

C


Beta-glucan has been studied for many stomach disorders. Early evidence suggests that beta-glucan improves stomach pain and bloating but lacks an effect on gut bacteria in people who have had surgery to remove growths in the intestines. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

C


Whole grains such as beta-glucan have been studied for possible benefit in preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Early evidence suggests that consuming a high fat meal with a beta-glucan-containing cereal or vitamin E may help offset negative effects on heart health. Diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure data is also promising. More research is needed in this area.

C


Early study suggests that beta-glucan may help protect the heart during coronary artery bypass surgery. Although promising, more research is needed to confirm this benefit.

C


Whole grains such as beta-glucan have been studied for possible benefit in preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Early research has found conflicting results regarding the effect of beta-glucan on blood pressure. Further study is needed to support the use of beta-glucan for this condition.

C


Early study suggests that beta-glucan may help reduce exercise-induced immune problems and lower the risk of colds and flu. More research is needed in this area.

C


Beta-glucan has been studied as a tool to help guide treatment for fungal infections. Early research showed that beta-glucan may decrease infection risk in people undergoing stomach surgery but increase side effects. More high-quality research is needed in this area.

C


Early evidence suggests that Biointo, a combination treatment containing beta-glucan, may improve some IBS symptoms. However, further research is needed before firm conclusions can be made.

C


A combination treatment containing beta-glucan and chitin has been studied for improving skin moisture and appearance. More high-quality research is needed on the effects of beta-glucan alone.

C


Beta-glucan has been studied for reducing the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds and flu, with conflicting results. More research is needed in this area.

C


Whole grains such as beta-glucan have been studied for possible benefit in preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Early results report that beta-glucan may lack an effect on feelings of fullness, appetite, and food intake, both alone and as part of a combination treatment. More research is needed in this area.

D
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Aging, antibacterial, antiviral, asthma, bedsores, celiac disease, clogged arteries, colon cancer, constipation, diabetic ulcers, diarrhea, eczema, fibromyalgia, hematopoiesis (stimulation of blood cell production), HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, influenza, liver inflammation, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), parasites, radiation burns, rheumatoid arthritis, sepsis (severe response to infection), shock, skin inflammation, stretch marks, wound healing.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • In general, a dose of 2-4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (about 250 milligrams daily) is believed to be effective. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed oat bran to be registered as the first cholesterol-reducing food at an amount of 3 grams of beta-glucan daily.
  • To treat allergies, 250 milligrams of Wellmune WGP® has been taken by mouth daily for four weeks.
  • As an antioxidant, 20 grams of beta-glucan powder has been mixed with 90 grams of ready-to-eat oat bran and 60 grams of oatmeal, then taken by mouth twice daily for 12 weeks.
  • To treat cancer, Macroforce plus IP6 and a food supplement containing superfine dispersed lentinan have been taken by mouth. Doses of 1-2 milligrams of lentinan or 20-40 milligrams of schizophyllan (SPG) have been injected 1-2 times weekly for longer than one year; superfine dispersed lentinan has also been injected for 12 weeks.
  • To treat canker sores, 10 milligrams of 1,3-1,6 beta-glucan have been taken by mouth twice daily for 20 days.
  • To treat heart disease, 60 grams of an oat cereal containing 3 grams of beta-glucan has been taken by mouth.
  • To treat diabetes, the following doses have been taken by mouth: 1-10 grams of barley and oat beta-glucan as a single dose or daily for up to 12 weeks, in the form of bread, cereal, muesli, muffins, polenta, pudding, and soup; 50 grams of barley kernel bread containing 14 percent beta-glucan; semolina spaghetti containing 2-10 percent beta-glucan (from GlucagelT or Barley Balance®); chapattis containing 4-8 percent of GlucagelT or 2-8 grams of Barley Balance®; 50-90 grams of carbohydrate portions of barley grain; oat bran concentrate with 22.8 percent beta-glucan for 12 weeks; 14.5 grams of oat gum with 50 grams of glucose; and 8.9 grams of beta-glucan plus 8.6 grams of cellulose for three days.
  • To treat stomach disorders, 125 grams of bread containing 3 grams of barley beta-glucan has been taken by mouth daily for three months.
  • To protect the heart during surgery, 700 milligrams and 1,400 milligrams of 1,3-1,6-glucan have been taken by mouth.
  • To treat high cholesterol, the following doses have been taken by mouth: 2-16 grams of beta-glucan daily for up to 12 weeks in single or divided doses, in the form of cereal, cereal bars, bran, bread, gum, instant whip, porridge, rice, and soup; 3 grams daily of oat or barley beta-glucan; 0.9-1.7 grams of Barley Balance® per 100 grams of pasta, bread, rice cakes, tomato sauce, or vegetable soup, daily for four weeks; 15 grams of yeast beta-glucan daily for eight weeks; and oatmeal or oat bran at doses of 28-84 grams.
  • To treat high blood pressure, the following doses have been taken by mouth: 1-10 grams of barley and oat beta-glucan as a single dose or daily for up to 12 weeks, in the form of foods such as cereal; and 20 grams of beta-glucan powder mixed with 90 grams of ready-to-eat oat bran and 60 grams of oatmeal, twice daily for 12 weeks.
  • To stimulate the immune system, the following doses have been taken by mouth: one capsule of Imunoglukan® containing 100 milligrams of Pleurotus ostreatus mushroom-derived beta-glucan and 100 milligrams of vitamin C, daily for two months; 2.5 milligrams of Lentinus edodes mushroom-derived beta-glucan (Lentinex®) daily for six weeks; 20 milligrams (two 10 milligram capsules each) of soluble 1-3, 1-6, D-beta-glucan derived from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Imuneks®), daily for 14 days; muesli containing 4.8 grams of oat-derived beta-glucan daily for four weeks; a 300 milliliter beverage containing 10.37 grams of OatVantage® (2.8 grams of beta-glucan), twice daily before, during, and after exercise training for 18 days.
  • To treat upper respiratory tract infections, the following doses have been taken by mouth: 1-2 capsules of Wellmune WGP® (250 milligrams of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mushroom-derived beta-glucan each), daily for 4-12 weeks; two capsules of Imunoglukan® containing 100 milligrams of Pleurotus ostreatus mushroom-derived beta-glucan and 100 milligrams of vitamin C, daily for three months; a 300 milliliter beverage containing 10.37 grams of OatVantage® (2.8 grams of beta-glucan), twice daily before, during, and after, exercise training for 18 days.
  • For weight loss, the following doses have been taken by mouth: 1-10 grams of barley and oat beta-glucan (e.g. GlucagelT) as a single dose or daily for up to 12 weeks, in the form of bread, cereal, granola bars, meal bars, and muesli; biscuits made with 70 percent beta-glucan-enriched barley flour (5.2 grams of beta-glucan per 100 grams of biscuit); and 10.5 grams of fiber in a beta-glucan beverage (400 grams per 1,000 kilojoules) as a single dose.
  • To treat burns, a beta-glucan collagen matrix has been applied directly to the skin and covered for 24 hours, then left open to air.
  • To treat infection, two cycles of beta-glucan has been applied to the skin daily for 12 days. In high-risk people undergoing surgery, 0.1-2 milligrams per kilogram of PGG-glucan (e.g. Betafectin®) has been injected 1-6 hours before surgery, then repeated at four hours, 48 hours, and 96 hours after surgery. In trauma patients undergoing surgery, 50 milligrams per meter squared of yeast beta-glucan has been injected daily for seven days.
  • To treat HIV infection, 1-10 milligrams of lentinan has been injected over 10-30 minutes and given 1-2 times weekly.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • To treat burns, beta-glucan collagen matrix has been applied to the skin.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to beta-glucan, or to algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and plants that contain beta-glucan.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Beta-glucan is likely safe when taken by mouth for a short time. A dose of 15 grams daily is believed to be safe to use for up to eight weeks. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed oat bran to be registered as the first cholesterol-reducing food at an amount of 3 grams of beta-glucan daily.
  • Beta-glucan is possibly safe in the form of yeast and fungal beta-glucan (lentinan and schizophyllan, for up to 12 months), as soluble forms, and as PGG-glucan from a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
  • Beta-glucan may affect blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Beta-glucan may affect blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that affect blood pressure.
  • Beta-glucan may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system.
  • Use cautiously in people who have AIDS or AIDS-related complex (ARC).
  • Use cautiously in children, due to a lack of safety information.
  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to beta-glucan, or to algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and plants that contain beta-glucan.
  • Avoid injecting beta-glucan in the form of small particles, due to a lack of safety information. Injecting beta-glucan in this form may cause blood vessel blockage, enlarged liver and spleen, and granulomas (inflamed, damaged areas).
  • Avoid using beta-glucan with aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
  • Beta-glucan may also cause bad taste, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, excessive sweating, excessive urination, fever, flushing, gas, headaches, high triglycerides, high white blood cell count, hives, flu-like symptoms, infection, lung inflammation, nausea, painful blistering on the hands and feet, rash, stomachache, stomach cramps, stomach damage (when taken with aspirin or NSAIDs), vomiting, and widening of blood vessels.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of beta-glucan during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Beta-glucan may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Beta-glucan may affect blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that affect blood pressure.
  • Beta-glucan may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood, and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. People using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Beta-glucan may also interact with agents that affect the immune system, agents that are taken by mouth, agents that mimic the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, agents that treat heart disorders, agents that treat nausea or vomiting, antibiotics, anticancer agents, antifungal agents, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory agents, antiviral agents, aspirin, beta-glucan blockers, carmustine (chemotherapy), cholesterol-lowering agents, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), skin agents, stomach agents, weight loss agents, and wound-healing agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Beta-glucan may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Beta-glucan may affect blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that affect blood pressure.
  • Beta-glucan may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
  • Beta-glucan may interact with antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antifungal herbs and supplements, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antioxidants, antiviral herbs and supplements, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that are taken by mouth, herbs and supplements that mimic the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, herbs and supplements that treat heart disorders, herbs and supplements that treat nausea or vomiting, herbs and supplements that treat skin disorders, herbs and supplements that treat stomach disorders, phytosterols, weight loss herbs and supplements, and wound-healing herbs and supplements.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Ahmad A, Anjum FM, Zahoor T, et al. Beta glucan: a valuable functional ingredient in foods. Crit Rev.Food Sci.Nutr. 2012;52(3):201-212.
  2. Aldughpassi A, Abdel-Aal el and Wolever TM. Barley cultivar, kernel composition, and processing affect the glycemic index. J.Nutr. 2012;142(9):1666-1671.
  3. Antachopoulos C and Walsh TJ. Immunotherapy of Cryptococcus infections. Clin.Microbiol.Infect. 2012;18(2):126-133.
  4. Barone Lumaga R, Azzali D, Fogliano V, et al. Sugar and dietary fibre composition influence, by different hormonal response, the satiating capacity of a fruit-based and a beta-glucan-enriched beverage. Food Funct. 2012;3(1):67-75.
  5. Charlton KE, Tapsell LC, Batterham MJ, et al. Effect of 6 weeks' consumption of beta-glucan-rich oat products on cholesterol levels in mildly hypercholesterolaemic overweight adults. Br.J.Nutr. 2012;107(7):1037-1047.
  6. Choi JS and Joo CK. Wakayama symposium: new therapies for modulation of epithelialization in corneal wound healing. Ocul.Surf. 2013;11(1):16-18.
  7. Cloetens L, Ulmius M, Johansson-Persson A, et al. Role of dietary beta-glucans in the prevention of the metabolic syndrome. Nutr.Rev. 2012;70(8):444-458.
  8. Goodridge HS, Underhill DM, and Touret N. Mechanisms of Fc receptor and dectin-1 activation for phagocytosis. Traffic. 2012;13(8):1062-1071.
  9. Hansen VM, Meyling NV, Winding A, et al. Factors affecting vegetable growers' exposure to fungal bioaerosols and airborne dust. Ann.Occup.Hyg. 2012;56(2):170-181.
  10. Jurczynska E, Saczko J, Kulbacka J, et al. [Beta-glucan as a natural anticancer agent]. Pol.Merkur Lekarski. 2012;33(196):217-220.
  11. Ren L, Perera C, and Hemar Y. Antitumor activity of mushroom polysaccharides: a review. Food Funct. 2012;3(11):1118-1130.
  12. Singh R, De S, and Belkheir A. Avena sativa (Oat), a potential neutraceutical and therapeutic agent: an overview. Crit Rev.Food Sci.Nutr. 2013;53(2):126-144.
  13. Talbott SM, Talbott JA, Talbott TL, et al. Beta-Glucan supplementation, allergy symptoms, and quality of life in self-described ragweed allergy sufferers. Food Science & Nutrition 2013;1(1):1-12.
  14. Xiang D, Sharma VR, Freter CE, et al. Anti-tumor monoclonal antibodies in conjunction with beta-glucans: a novel anti-cancer immunotherapy. Curr.Med.Chem. 2012;19(25):4298-4305.
  15. Zanoni I and Granucci F. Regulation and dysregulation of innate immunity by NFAT signaling downstream of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Eur.J.Immunol. 2012;42(8):1924-1931.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


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