Beta Glucan: The Heart Healthy Fiber
You may have heard that fiber is good for you, but did you know that not all fiber is the same? There are two main categories of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Within each category, there are different types.
Beta glucan is one form of soluble dietary fiber that’s strongly linked to improving cholesterol levels and boosting heart health. many fibers, it’s available in supplement form. You can also find it in whole grains, oats, bran, wheat, and barley. Baker’s yeast and some types of fungi, such as maitake and reishi mushrooms, contain beta glucan as well.
We get dietary fiber from the plant-based foods we eat. Soluble fibers, beta glucan, dissolve partially in water. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve at all. Most foods have both kinds of fiber, but the amounts can vary. There are also different kinds of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Fiber supports good health by helping your body reduce cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. It also helps with constipation and bowel issues, maintains healthy gut bacteria, and aids in weight control.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that men and women ages 50 and under eat 38 grams (g) and 25 g per day, respectively. Men and women ages 51 and over should get 30 g and 21 g per day. Teenagers may need 30 to 35 g a day.
There’s solid evidence that beta glucan can boost heart health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a heart-healthy label for foods that have high amounts of beta glucan, this evidence.
Several studies suggest that beta glucan may lower cholesterol and triglycerides. One found that eating oats with at least 3 g of beta glucan daily reduced bad cholesterol (LDL) levels between 5 and 7 percent.
Regulates blood sugar levels
It may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. It may also improve blood sugar control for those who already have diabetes.
Stimulates immune system
Researchers believe that beta glucan could have some positive effects on the immune system. However, more research is necessary. Most research to date has been in the form of animal trials.
Scientists think beta glucan may be able to stimulate the immune system and help the body fight off disease and infection more effectively. However, the human immune system is complicated and researchers are still learning how it works.
It may take some time before we know the exact effects beta glucan has and if it can improve immune system function.
Because it’s a soluble fiber, beta glucan slows down food transit in the intestines. This means that it takes longer for the body to digest food.
Slower digestion means the body doesn’t absorb sugar as quickly, reducing the lihood of blood sugar spikes and helping keep blood sugar levels stable. Beta glucan is indigestible, so it goes through the whole digestive tract.
As it travels through, it can take cholesterol out with it, lowering levels.
Beta glucan is naturally in some foods, and is generally considered safe. If you choose to take supplements, make sure they’re from a reliable source. The FDA doesn’t regulate supplement manufacturers well, and there’s a possibility of contamination and false marketing claims. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
People with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease may need to especially use caution with beta glucan supplements. This is because their immune system is already overactive. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking supplements if you have any chronic health conditions.
Science may not have unlocked all of beta glucan’s potential health benefits, but we do know that it has a role in improving heart health and preventing diabetes. The best way to get fiber is through your diet. If you haven’t already, think about switching to whole grains.
Beta-glucans: Uses and Risks
Beta-glucans are types of fiber found in the cells of certain types of yeast, algae, bacteria, and fungi.
They are also found in certain plants, such as oats and barley.
Beta-glucans made from yeast may help lower cholesterol. Studies have shown that they may slightly lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. However, they do not seem to affect HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Beta-glucans have been studied in people with certain types of cancer. For example, one study showed that combining a type of beta-glucans called lentinan with chemotherapy can help people with gastric cancer live longer. More research is needed to see how effective it might be.
Studies also show that beta-glucans may help people with cervical and head and neck cancers. They may also increase survival time in some people with advanced cancers. Again, more studies are needed.
Beta-glucans do not seem to directly kill cancer. However, scientists think they may help your immune system better fight tumors and bacteria.
Early evidence shows that the supplement's immune-boosting abilities may also be helpful to people with AIDS. It may also lower your risk for infections after surgery and trauma. Further studies will help show if these are true.
Supplement makers sometimes claim that the fiber in beta-glucans supplements can help you feel fuller. This might help you eat less, which could make you lose weight. But, there is not enough evidence to show that beta-glucans can cause weight loss.
Optimal doses of beta-glucans have not been set. Supplement ingredients and quality may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it hard to set a standard dose.
Beta-glucans have been taken by mouth in studies looking at their effect on people with high cholesterol and diabetes. Research with people affected by HIV/AIDS or serious infections have used injectable forms of beta-glucans. It has also been tried topically on the skin in research in people with burns.
Beta-glucans are commonly found in:
- Certain mushrooms
- Grains such as oats and barley
- Baker's yeast
Soluble forms of beta-glucans made from yeast or fungi appear safe when taken by mouth. Side effects may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
Sometimes, doctors prescribe beta-glucans to be given through an IV. Side effects may include:
It's not known if this supplement is safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Some types of beta-glucans may not be safe to take if you have certain health conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking this supplement if you have:
- AIDS or AIDS-related complex (ARC)
- High blood pressure
Beta-glucans may interfere with some medicines. Talk to your doctor before taking this if you are taking any other medicines. Do not take beta-glucans if you take certain blood pressure medicines, drugs that suppress the immune system, or certain non-steroidal medicines unless instructed by your doctor
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them foods rather than medications. Un drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.
Natural Standard: “Beta-glucan,” “Beta-glucan: The Clinical Bottom Line.”
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “NCCAM High-Priority Topics for Mechanistic Research on CAM Natural Products (R01) RFA-AT-11-001.”
National Cancer Institute: “NCI Drug Dictionary: beta-glucan,” “Clinical Trial Search Results: Beta-glucans.”
FDA: “Federal Register — 70 FR 76150 December 23, 2005: Food Labeling: Health Claims; Soluble Dietary Fiber From Certain Foods and Coronary Heart Disease.”
Murphy, E.A. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, November 2010.
Asano, T. Biophysical and Biophysical Research Communications, April 6, 2012;.
Cloetens, L. Nutrition Review. August 2012.
Volman, J.J. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, February 2010.
Jesenak, M. Allergologia et Immunopathologia, Dec. 17, 2012.
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Betting on Beta-Glucans
May 2014 Issue
Betting on Beta-Glucans
By Densie Webb, PhD, RD
Vol. 16 No. 5 P. 16
Research suggests this type of fiber can improve blood glucose control, insulin resistance, and cholesterol levels.
Chances are that many of your clients aren’t getting enough fiber in their diets despite the constant admonitions to increase their consumption. What your clients may not know is that not all dietary fibers are created equal, both in terms of chemical structure and potential health benefits.
Soluble and insoluble fibers are the most commonly recognized categories of fiber, but each can be divided into many subcategories depending on the food source, molecular weight, and resistance to digestion. What’s more, their effects on health can be just as diverse.
One type of fiber that has received much attention lately is beta-glucan, a glucose polymer found in the cell walls of cereals (eg, oats, barley), certain types of mushrooms (eg, reishi, shiitake, maitake), yeasts, seaweed, and algae.
A lesser amount is found in wheat, rye, and sorghum. Among these sources, barley typically has the highest beta-glucan content and oats the second highest.
One and a half cups of cooked oatmeal or three packets of instant oatmeal provide 3 g of beta-glucans; 1 cup of cooked pearl barley contains approximately 2.5 g of beta-glucans.
Beta-glucans have been the subject of intensifying research because they may have beneficial roles in lowering insulin resistance and blood cholesterol, reducing the risk of obesity, and boosting the immune system to fight cancer.1,2
For the past eight years, health claims for beta-glucan–containing foods have been allowed in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the United Kingdom.
The health claims approved by the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority are research showing that consuming 3 g of beta-glucans per day, from either oats or barley, can lower blood cholesterol levels by 5% to 8%.
3 Clients or patients with high cholesterol levels ly will see the greatest benefit.4 However, it isn’t clear whether beta-glucans can lower triglyceride levels.
While some studies have suggested that beta-glucans also may boost the immune system, increase satiety, help regulate blood glucose levels, and decrease the risk of developing some types of cancer, the research hasn’t been consistent enough to determine specific daily requirements for optimal health. Focusing on a recommendation for overall health is complicated by the fact that not all beta-glucans are created equal.
“Oat and barley foods have been shown to reduce the risk of glucose intolerance by slowing glucose absorption after a meal,” says Susan M. Tosh, PhD, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, an organization that provides information, research, and technology programs and policies related to food and agriculture.
“One study followed more than 65,000 women for six years and found that dietary fiber, including beta-glucan intake, was inversely associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.5 Mushroom beta-glucans differ structurally and don’t affect glucose absorption.
” However, a recent laboratory study suggested that beta-glucans from barley and mushrooms have the potential to decrease glycemic response between 20% and 25% and 17% and 25%, respectively.6
While some studies suggest that a boost in immunity markers occurs from consuming oat beta-glucans,7 most of the research on beta-glucans and immunity has been done on mushroom extracts, not oats or barley.
Medicinal mushrooms, especially Coriolus versicolor (known as yun zhi in China), commonly are used in traditional Oriental medicine and have been for centuries.
8,9 In the 1980s, the Japanese government approved the use of protein-bound polysaccharide (PSK), a beta-glucan compound found in mushrooms, for treating several types of cancers and for widespread use in cancer immunotherapy.
9 Rather than directly killing cancer cells, these mushroom beta-glucans are thought to stimulate immune responses that damage cancer cells.8 However, because PSK is bound to a protein, pure beta-glucans that have been separated and purified may act differently than beta-glucans from food.10
While animal studies suggest that beta-glucans may be helpful as an adjuvant therapy,9,11 there’s no research that shows increasing intake of PSK or any other beta-glucans can help prevent cancer.
Most of the research on PSK and Coriolus has been done in Japan, and most of it has been done on PSK isolated from mushrooms rather than on PSK-rich mushrooms as part of the diet.
“I would recommend foods rich in beta-glucans for blood glucose control and lipid lowering,” says Joanne Slavin, PhD, RD, a professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota. “I’m not convinced that beta-glucans would change immune function.”
In other studies, researchers have examined the association between beta-glucans and weight. But whether consuming beta-glucan–rich foods aids in weight management isn’t clear. For example, one study found that consuming a beverage containing 2.
5 g of beta-glucans resulted in significantly greater ratings of satiety than a fiber-free beverage.
1,12 Another study found that overweight men who consumed 7 g/day of beta-glucans for 12 weeks experienced a significant reduction in body mass, waist circumference, and visceral fat compared with those in the placebo group.1,13
Research has suggested that a minimum of 4 to 6 g of beta-glucans are needed for appetite suppression.1 However, another study found that consuming 9 g/day of beta-glucans for 24 weeks had no significant effect on body weight.
14 A recent review concluded that beta-glucans significantly increased satiety and reduced appetite compared with a diet containing no beta-glucans, although it didn’t always translate into decreased food intake in short-term studies.
How Beta-Glucans Work
Many plant-derived polysaccharides, such as beta-glucans, regulate the immune system as they pass through the intestinal tract.16 Some beta-glucans interact with immune cells and stimulate the immune system directly.17
Viscous fibers such as psyllium, beta-glucans, and pectin may form a gel in the small intestine, which acts to delay nutrient absorption, slowing the delivery of glucose into the bloodstream and reducing the need for insulin.
These fibers’ ability to lower postprandial glycemia and insulinemia, as well as cholesterol, has been established in numerous studies, but long-term effects are less well known. Bacteria ferment beta-glucans in the intestinal tract, producing short-chain fatty acids.
These may stimulate insulin release from the pancreas and alter glycogen breakdown by the liver and therefore play a role in glucose metabolism and protect against insulin resistance.
1 However, it’s unknown whether appetite suppression is the result of increased fullness or an effect of insulin regulation.15
Advice for Clients
Beta-glucans are present in various commonly eaten foods, and intake is believed to be safe for most people.
However, if beta-glucans can stimulate the immune system, this could theoretically pose problems for people suffering from autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers don’t know what the effect of consuming large amounts of beta-glucans may be on these conditions.
According to Gregory J. Berry, MBBS (SYD), MRCPych, a Sydney, Australia-based medical research analyst, “If a patient is going to proactively immunomodulate with these compounds, they should first consult with their physician.”
Slavin recommends that people increase their consumption of foods rich in beta-glucans, as long as they know they’re consuming concentrated sources of beta-glucans.
“Beta-glucans are the new frontier in medicine,” Berry says, but “much research still remains to be done.”
— Densie Webb, PhD, RD, is a freelance writer, editor, and industry consultant based in Austin, Texas.
1. El Khoury D, Cuda C, Luhovyy BL, Anderson GH. Beta glucan: health benefits in obesity and metabolic syndrome. J Nutr Metab. 2012;(2012):851362. doi: 10.1155/2012/851362.
2. Thompson IJ, Oyston PC, Williamson DE. Potential of the beta-glucans to enhance innate resistance to biological agents. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010;8(3):339-352.
3. Ames NP, Rhymer CR. Issues surrounding health claims for barley. J Nutr. 2008;138(6):1273S-1243S.
4. Bernstein AM, Titgemeier B, Kirkpatrick K, Golubic M, Roizen MF. Major cereal grain fibers and psyllium in relation to cardiovascular health. Nutrients. 2013;5(5):1471-1487.
5. Salmeron J, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Wing AL, Willett WC. Dietary fiber, glycemic load, and risk of non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in women. JAMA. 1997;277(6):472-477.
6. Brennan MA, Derbyshire E, Tiwari BK, Brennan CS. Integration of β-glucan fibre rich fractions from barley and mushrooms to form healthy extruded snacks. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2013;68(1):78-82.
7. Daou C, Zhang H. Oat beta-glucan: its role in health promotion and prevention of diseases. Comp Rev. 2012;11(4):355-365.
8. Vannucci L, Krizan J, Sima P, et al. Immunostimulatory properties and antitumor activities of glucans (Review). Int J Oncol. 2013;43:357-364.
9. Coriolus mushroom. Susan G. Komen website. http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/Coriolusmushroom.html. 2013. Accessed March 4, 2014.
10. Chan GC, Chan WK, Sze DM. The effects of β-glucan on human immune and cancer cells. J Hem Oncol. 2009;2:25.
11. Li B, Cai Y, Qi C, et al. Orally administered particulate β-glucan modulates tumor-capturing dendritic cells and improves antitumor T-cell responses in cancer. Clin Canc Res. 2010;16:5153-5164.
12. Lyly M, Ohls N, Lahteenmaki L, et al. The effect of fibre amount, energy level and viscosity of beverages containing oat fibre supplement on perceived satiety. Food Nutr Res. 2010;54. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v54i0.2149.
13. Shimizu C, Kihara M, Aoe S, et al. Effect of high beta-glucan barley on serum cholesterol concentrations and visceral fat area in Japanese men—a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2008;63(1):21-25.
14. Pick M, Hawrysh Z, Gee M, Toth E, Garg M, Hardin R. Oat bran concentrate bread products improve long-term control of diabetes: a pilot study. J Am Diet Assoc. 1996;96(12):1254-1261.
15. Clark M, Slavin J. The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(3):200-211.
16. Ramberg J, Nelson E, Sinnott R. Immunomodulatory dietary polysaccharides: a systematic review of the literature. Nutr J. 2010;9:1-60.
17. Vetvicka V, Thornton B, Ross G. Soluble β-glucan polysaccharide binding to the lectin site of neutrophil or natural killer cell complement receptor type 3 (CD11b/CD18) generates a primed state of the receptor capable of mediating cytotoxicity of iC3b-Opsonized target cells. J Clin Invest. 1996;98(1):50-61.
18. Salmeron J, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Wing AL, Willett WC. Dietary fiber, glycemic load, and risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in women. JAMA. 1997;277(6):472-477.
Introducing Beta Glucan, A Little-Known Skincare Ingredient With Big Potential
“Better than hyaluronic acid” is a bold claim to make when speaking to any beauty editor, much less one at Byrdie. We take our hyaluronic acid—and all of our other hydrators—very seriously. So when we're pitched an ingredient beta-glucans, which have been the subject of some seemingly far-flung claims, we do our research.
And honestly, we're pleased with what we found. But beta-glucans don't occur naturally in the human body—so why would we need them? And what exactly are they? We spoke to Dr. Dendy Engelman; Dr. Michelle Wong, Science Educator and Content Creator behind LabMuffin; and Alicia Zalka, M.D.
and Founder of Surface Deep to get the scoop.
Type of ingredient: Hydrator
Main benefits: Boosts skin barrier, smooths skin, antioxidant
Who should use it: In general, people with compromised skin barriers, but anyone can use them.
How often can you use it?: You can use it as often as you would .
Works well with: Retinols, or anything else dehydrating or irritating. Sunscreens, as it helps reduce issues related to UV exposure.
According to Dendy Engelman, “Beta-glucans, written as β-glucans, are polysaccharides (multiple sugars, starch, cellulose bonded together) found in yeast, bacteria, fungi, seaweed, and grains oats.
” So you can ingest them in food, or they can be extracted and applied to your skin.
It feels we all take so many pills (and it's a lot to keep track of,) so we don't blame you if you're more invested in the effects of the latter.
“Beta glucan is a humectant moisturiser that attracts water to the top layers of skin,” Wong says.
Accounts on the internet from people claiming that when used topically the ingredient boosted their hydration levels and skin barrier function were easy to find, drawing us in even further.
An ingredient that does all that while decreasing the look of wrinkles, redness, and irritation seems almost too good to be true—or at least it would be used in skincare more often if it were.
Meet the Expert
- Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified and nationally-acclaimed dermatologic surgeon. She is based in Manhattan, NY, with celebrity clients that include Sofia Vergara, Christina Ricci, and Kristin Chenoweth.
- Ann Son is founder and president of Kosmetic Immunity by JKosmmune, the first immune-boosting skincare brand featuring Beta Glucan.
Apparently those anecdotal first-person accounts had real truth to back them up. Dr. Zalka also says that they're “known to have as good or better skin humectant and plumping capacity as hyaluronic acid, [and they're] high in antioxidants.”
- Prevents Damage: She also claims it “may help prevent cell damage associated with aging or sun exposed skin.”
- Repairs Skin: Engelman explains, “some studies show that it helps in the treatment of dermatitis, eczema, bed sores, wounds, and burns.” These reparative powers stem from the ingredient's barrier-boosting function.
- Barrier Booster: Take it from Ann Son, who says the molecule actually links together on the surface of the skin to form a thin and undetectable film. This boosts the natural barrier, which protects “the sensitive skin underneath from daily environmental stressors.” In other words, if redness and irritation are your skin's main issues, then beta-glucan is the new (possible) cure you should try.
- Boosts Immunity: What's more is that beta-glucans even go so far as to fend off encroaching bacteria that could disrupt the skin's barrier. “Beta-glucans work by stimulating the macrophages (they work to fight off invading pathogens that can cause infections) and stimulate other immune cells to attack pathogens,” Engelman tells us. “Think of them as ringleaders.” For this reason, they're especially suited to people who have dry, rough, or cracked skin. “For those who have compromised skin barriers eczema or dermatitis, beta-glucan can help fight virus and pathogens that pass through your skin barrier.”
- Deeply Hydrate The Skin: According to Son, beta-glucans act as a humectant in the skin, which means they lock hydration in and prevent moisture loss. Here's where it gets interesting: retinol, hyaluronic acid is one of the beauty industry's most beloved and buzzworthy skincare ingredients as it's been found to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water—thus giving skin deep and lightweight hydration. It's certainly effective and important, though Son says that beta-glucans can do the same job—if not better. “Hyaluronic acid (HA) is very similar in structure, but it has subtle differences that make it less ideal,” Son tells us. “Tests have shown beta-glucan is 20% more hydrating than HA at the same concentration. With extra water, beta-glucan can plump up the skin and make the skin feel more supple.”
- Anti-Aging Effects: Finally, Son lauds beta-glucans for their anti-aging effects. In fact, she says it's one of the skincare concerns that the ingredient primarily addresses (along with hydration of course). “Because it is a sugar molecule (a unique one), it can bind to many receptors in your body. Depending on where the molecule ends up, beta-glucan has different effects.”
- Plumps Skin: One study even says that despite the comparatively large molecular size of beta-glucan, it deeply penetrates the epidermis to effectively plump up fine lines and wrinkles.
Kosmetic ImmunityBeta-Glucan Recovery Serum$52
Good news: if your skin is really damaged and in need of some care, you can do a whole routine with beta-glucans, as they have no side effects. It just means selecting the products you want to use. “Beta glucan comes from oats so it can be used as an oat mask. It can also be found in moisturizers and serums,” says Wong.
Keep in mind that while using one or two products with beta-glucan will be hydrating, if you do use them in your entire routine, you probably won't be getting the full hydrating benefits. Regardless, it pays to integrate the ingredient into one or more of the products on your shelf.
“Beta-glucan is certainly a powerful moisturizing ingredient, and it does the majority of the heavy lifting. We also utilize natural ingredients to maintain the hydration for longer, such as citrus oil and grape-seed oil,” Son tells us.
“As hyaluronic acid (HA) grew in popularity, following the trend, we believe beta-glucan will soon replace HA as the next predominant skincare ingredient.
The problem has been the enormous cost to manufacture—until our breakthrough manufacturing technology.”
Although Kosmetic Immunity is at the forefront of the beta-glucan skincare trend, there are other brands and products that employ the ingredient. According to Engelman, “it has always been a silent contributor in skincare products.
” She names Skinceutical's Epidermal Repair ($74) as a notable product. It “contains beta-glucan derived from plants, which helps to maintain a smooth, healthy, and youthful skin appearance and promotes collagen building.
” It also “aids in skin healing from excessive sun exposure, rashes, mild burns, and wounds.”
MisshaTime Revolution the First Treatment Essence$52
This Missha product also utilizes beta-glucan to hydrate the skin. Since it's an essence, you should apply it right after you cleanse your face.
The lightweight and low-viscosity fluid sinks into skin to hydrate, brighten, and nourish dull and dry skin.
Since Missha is a Korean beauty brand, it's just another sign that beta-glucan could be the next buzzy skincare ingredient to take over.
The RouteThe Everything Night$90
The Route set out to make skincare a lot simpler, trying to get your routine down to one product post-wash. It's amazing, but at the same time, they're not the only brand slimming down these days. What sets The Route apart is the fact their products aren't just formulated to be multitaskers—they also work with your Circadian rhythm.
AcadermaThe Oasis Barrier Booster$68
Ever since it came out, we've been in love with this barrier booster from Acaderma. Because of its hydrating capabilities and its barrier-refining use of beta glucans, this serum the perfect thing to protect your skin before using something irritating a retinol or even Vitamin C.
Vintner's DaughterActive Treatment Essence$225
When Vintner's Daughter stepped on the scene with their award-winning Active Botanical Serum, we knew we hadn't seen the last of them. But a brand launching with just one product is almost unheard of nowadays. So when the brand came back with their Active Treatment Essence, we had high expectations; they delivered.
REN Clean SkincareUltra Comforting Rescue Mask$42
REN's Evercalm line is one of the first any beauty editor will recommend to calm skin. It's clean, it's effective, and it's helpful for a lot of different kinds of skin. We're drawn mostly to this mask, which is great for the times you know you've screwed up your skin and need a remedy, and fast.
Dr. Barbara SturmSki Cream$115
Sometimes your skin needs an extra layer of protection— when you're travelling, or on a mountain skiing. Dr. Barbara Sturm created this cream with ski brand Perfect Moment to protect from all adverse conditions. Edelweiss guards your skin, while beta glucans hydrate.
LaneigeLip Sleeping Mask$20
This cult-favorite overnight lip mask utilizes beta glucans in its trademarked Moisture Wrap technology. The technology itself is built so the hydration in the overnight mask is time-released, ensuring you get at least 8 full hours of moisture.
The Benefits of Beta-Glucan
Sanny11 / Getty Images
Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber found naturally cereal grains, yeast, and certain mushrooms and sold as a supplement. A polysaccharide—a large molecule made up of multiple sugar molecules—beta-glucan may offer a number of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, improving blood sugar management, and boosting the immune system.
As a soluble fiber, beta-glucan itself is not digested, however, it slows food transit in the intestines. As a result, carbohydrates are absorbed slower, resulting in more steady blood sugar. In addition, it moves slowly through the digestive tract, taking cholesterol with it.
In alternative medicine, proponents claim that beta-glucan supplements may help with the following health conditions:
Beta-glucan is also purported to strengthen the immune system and, in turn, fend off colds, flu, and even cancer. Additionally, beta-glucan is said to increase the body's defense against the harmful effects of stress.
So far, scientific support for the benefits of beta-glucan is limited. Here's a look at some key study findings on the possible health benefits of beta-glucan:
The beta-glucan found in oats may help keep cholesterol in check, according to a 2011 report.
Looking at studies conducted over the previous 13 years, the report's authors determined that oat-derived beta-glucan may significantly reduce levels of total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
On average, the authors note, daily oat consumption is associated with 5% and 7% reductions in total and LDL cholesterol levels, respectively.
A 2014 meta-analysis found similar results. The researchers focused on studies that included at least 3 grams of beta-glucan daily and found it reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but did not impact HDL cholesterol levels or triglycerides.
Research also suggests that Beta-glucan may help manage diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol, and keeping blood pressure in check.
A 2014 literature analysis confirmed these findings but noted that beta-glucan alone was not enough to achieve normal blood-sugar readings in patients with diabetes, and it should be used as an adjunct to standard treatment.
Preliminary research indicates that beta-glucan may activate a number of cells and proteins that fight cancer (such as T-cells and natural killer cells).
What's more, tests on animals have shown that beta-glucan may inhibit the spread of cancer cells.
However, a 2009 report cautions that there are “no good quality clinical trial data” for the effectiveness of beta-glucan in treating cancer.
Currently, there is a lack of clinical trials studying h supporting the claim that beta-glucan can rev up the immune system and stave off colds, flu, and other types of infection.
Although beta-glucan is generally considered safe, there's some concern that it may lower blood sugar. Therefore, people with hypoglycemia or anyone taking medications to reduce blood sugar should consult a physician before using beta-glucan.
People who eat a low-fiber diet should add beta-glucan gradually to their diet. all fibers, it may cause gastric distress, bloating, and gas if taken in larger than a normal dosage. The side effects should wear off over time, but slowly adding more fiber to your diet can ease stomach discomfort.
Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label.
Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. Get additional tips on using supplements.
There is no standard dose for beta-glucan. Research has shown various levels to be effective and it differs the source of beta-glucan.
For instance, beta-glucans made from yeast may lower cholesterol at 7.
5 grams of beta-glucans taken twice daily for 7 to 8 weeks, while beta-glucans made from barley or oat have been shown effective at levels between 3 gram to 10 grams daily for up to 12 weeks.
Beta-glucan supplements are widely available for purchase online and are also sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.
Many beta-glucan supplements source their beta-glucan from substances baker's yeast. Others contain medicinal mushrooms shiitake and maitake (both found to be rich in beta-glucan). While research on the health effects of medicinal mushroom supplements is somewhat limited, a number of studies suggest that they can help boost immunity.
Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Look for brands tested by a trusted, independent third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.
Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber found primarily in cereal grains oats, barley, and wheat. It is also in baker's yeast and certain fungi maitake, shiitake, and reishi mushrooms.
Beta-glucan is most abundant in food in their raw and natural state, however, grains require cooking to be edible. in addition, any processing done to the grains will reduce the amount of beta-glucan. Look for whole grains in as close to their natural states as possible, such as choosing steel-cut oats over instant oatmeal or oat flour, and pearl barley over barley flour.
Although it's too soon to recommend beta-glucan supplements for health purposes, increasing your beta-glucan intake (by including oats, barley, and medicinal mushrooms in your diet) may help enhance your overall health.
If you're considering using beta-glucan supplements, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.