Vitamins & Supplements

Why People Supplement with Beta Glucans

Beta-Glucans have numerous immunne boosting benefits on the body. They activate the communication and microbe-killing capabilities of macrophages to optimize the body’s natural immune protection system.

Because the body doesn’t produce beta glucans naturally, the only way to get the compound is through baker’s yeast, shiitake mushrooms, and cereal grains, like barley, oats, rye, and wheat. But because these sources provide only a limited amount of beta-glucan to offer powerful immune support, daily supplementation is often critical.1-4

Maintaining healthy beta-glucan levels helps protect against problems ranging from autoimmune disease and cardiovascular health to fighting cancer.

Hundreds of studies have demonstrated beta-glucan’s ability to dramatically improve immune health, particualrly against viral infections5. Although beta-glucan is one of the most powerful biological response modifiers currently available in supplement form, not all beta-glucan supplements are created equal. Yeast-derived beta-glucan dubbed beta 1/3-1/6 glucan is orally bioavailable and stimulates production of white blood cells in human bone marrow and spleen. This form of beta-glucan has clinically proven superior ability to activate macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells, effectively boosting immune function to confront threats ranging from radiation poisoning to tumors and infection.

These factors make daily supplementation with beta-glucan essential for aging individual.

In this article, you’ll learn how beta-glucan can reduce the risk of virtually any health problem.

Immune Function

Beta-glucans are a type of carbohydrate called polysaccharides, that not only enhances macrophages’ ability to recognize and subdue microbial invaders, but also increases their ability to communicate with the immune system’s “T cells,” to amplify the immune response and ultimately overcome microbial invaders.

Beta-glucan has a direct anti-viral effect against the influenza virus. The Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism examined beta glucans’ ability to mitigate upper respiratory infections in a single blind, randomized trial in 2008. Researchers provided participants with either a beta-glucan-containing supplement or a placebo and asked them to write down any cold symptoms (runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, colored discharge) or flu symptoms (fever, headache, general aches and pains, fatigue and weakness, chest discomfort, cough). Participants who recorded having these symptoms for two consecutive days were classified as having an upper respiratory tract infection.

Participants who consumed the supplement had fewer upper respiratory tract infections, compared to the group taking a placebo.6

Heart Health

Studies suggest that beta-glucan is a secret weapon for cardiovascular disease. That’s because beta-glucan promotes healthy blood lipid levels, hindering the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the intestines. Daily supplementation of beta-glucan helps to lower to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) as well as total cholesterol in men and women7.

The FDA has determined that foods containing barley (a beta-glucan rich grain) may now carry a qualified health claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when combined with a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Whole-grain barley and dry milled barley products must contain at least 0.75 grams of soluble fiber per serving in order to make this health claim.8

Cancer Protection

Clinical application of lentinan, a type of beta glucan found in shiitake mushrooms, have proven prolongation of life span of patients with advanced and recurrent stomach, colorectal, and breast cancer with only little toxic side effect, suppressing the formation and development of tumors.

In a Japanese study, mice with tumors that received beta-glucans, experienced a rapid decrease in the number of tumor cells as well as a notable increase in neutrophils in solid tumors9. Beta-glucans have been used as an immunoadjuvant therapy (an immune system stimulant) for cancer since 198010.

Gastrointestinal Health Benefits

Beta-glucan is a rich soluble fiber that creates a hydrogel that helps to moderate the transit of starches through the GI tract, which allows starches to be digested earlier in the system, increases nutrient absorption in the GI system, and regulates the release of sugars in the bloodstream.

Some of the soluble fiber found in beta-glucan is digested by colonic bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids, which may help promote bowel health. In fact, germinated barley products are undergoing investigation for their ability to help soothe colonic mucosa in the painful inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis11.


Beta-glucan is a crucial weapon in the fight to stay healthy and boosting.

The body does not produce beta-glucans naturally, and some circumstances, such as older age, siginificantly boost the body’s need for beta-glucan.

These factors make daily supplementation with beta-glucan an important component of a comprehensive wellness program.


  1. Wasser SP. Medicinal mushrooms as a source of antitumor and immunomodulating polysaccharides. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2002 Nov;60(3):258-74. Epub 2002 Sep 10.
  2. Hsieh TC, Kunicki J, Darzynkiewicz Z, Wu JM. Effects of extracts of Coriolus versicolor (I’m-Yunity) on cell-cycle progression and expression of interleukins-1 beta,-6, and -8 in promyelocytic HL-60 leukemic cells and mitogenically stimulated and nonstimulated human lymphocytes. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Oct;8(5):591-602.
  3. Kuo MC, Weng CY, Ha CL. Ganoderma lucidum mycelia enhance innate immunity by activating NF-kappaB. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Jan 16;103(2):217-22.
  4. Lull C, Wichers HJ, Savelkoul HF. Antiinflammatory and immunomodulating properties of fungal metabolites. Mediators Inflamm. 2005 Jun 9;2005(2):63-80.
  5. J Immunotoxicol. 2008 Jan;5(1):47-57.
  7. J Am Coll Nutr.1997 Feb;16(1):46-5.
  10. Hum Cell. 1990 Jun;3(2):124-30.
  11. J Immunotoxicol. 2008 Jan;5(1):47-57.
  12. Bamba T, Kanauchi O, Andoh A, Fujiyama Y. A new prebiotic from germinated barley for nutraceutical treatment of ulcerative colitis. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2002 Aug;17(8):818-24.

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