Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber derived from the cell walls of algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and plants. It is commonly used for its cholesterol-lowering effects. Beta-glucans have also been used to treat diabetes and for weight loss.
Concentrated yeast-derived beta-glucan is more easily incorporated into food products than grain beta-glucans, which are found in cereal grains like oat and barely. Yeast-derived beta-glucan is also more palatable than oat because it is not soluble in water and does not become viscous in water as beta-glucan from oats does. However, oat beta-glucan may have a higher therapeutic benefit potential.
The use of beta-glucan is a relatively new practice. Practitioners have used beta-glucan as an immunostimulant or as an adjunct cancer treatment. Beta-glucan is also used for its cholesterol-lowering effects and glycemic (blood sugar) control. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed a ruling that allowed oat bran to be registered as the first cholesterol-reducing food at an amount of 3 grams beta-glucan daily.
Amylodextrins, baker's yeast, barley, beta-glucans, beta glycans, beta-glycans, grifolan (GRN), griton-d(r) (GD), d-fraction, lentinan, maitake mushroom, PGG glucan, PGG-glucan, oat beta-glucan, oat fiber, oat fibre, oat gum, Plantago major L., poria cocos sclerotium, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, schizophyllan (SPG), Sparassis crispa, SSG, yeast-derived beta glucan.
Note: Please see separate listings for barley, brewer's yeast, maitake mushroom, oat (above ground parts), oat bran, oats, Saccharomyces boulardii, salep, and shiitake mushroom.
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.
Numerous trials have examined the effects of oral beta-glucan on cholesterol. Small reductions in total and LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) have been reported. Little to no significant changes have been noted to occur on triglyceride levels or HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels. The sum of existing positive evidence is suggestive and not definitive.
There are several human trials supporting the use of beta-glucan for glycemic (blood sugar) control. Although earl evidence is promising, additional study is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
Beta-glucan collagen matrix, which combines the carbohydrate beta-glucan with collagen, has been used as a temporary coverage for partial thickness burns with good results. Beta-glucan collagen matrix may help reduce pain, improve healing, and lessen scar appearance. However, further study is needed to confirm these results.
Evidence suggests that reductions in endothelial function induced by a high fat meal may be prevented when a high fat meal is taken along with a beta-glucan-containing cereal or vitamin E. Diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and hypertension (high blood pressure) data are also promising. Further study is needed in this area.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of beta-glucan for high blood pressure. Better study is needed to determine a relationship.
PGG-glucan, an immunomodulator, has been studied in patients undergoing surgery, particularly abdominal surgery. Currently, PGG-glucan appears to have positive results in decreasing postoperative infection. More study is warranted to make a firm recommendation.
Researchers suggest different types of fiber may have an effect on satiety and energy intake. Short-term use of fermentable fiber or nonfermentable fiber supplements does not appear to promote weight loss. More study is needed to confirm these findings.