Beta-glucan is an essential food constituent. It is a type of fiber mainly found in (bakers) yeasts. Beta-glucan consists of D-glucose monomers linked by a β-glycosidic bond. Beta-glucan has proven its effectiveness in reducing chronic diseases, cancer, allergies, gastro-intestinal disorders, and immune related diseases. Derived from fungi and bakers yeast, beta-glucan consists of a (1,3)-β-linked backbone with small numbers of (1,6)-β-linked side chains, and is essentially known for its immune modulating effects. In addition, bakers yeast as source for (1,3/1,6) beta-glucan was approved in 2008 as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ (GRAS) by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
The key role of beta-glucan is to reinforce the ability of the innate immune system so that it quickly recognizes and responds to an invading pathogen which is essential for controlling infection and keeping the body healthy. Importantly, beta-glucan activates the innate immunity with subsequent effects on the adaptive immunity activation, without overstimulating the immune response.
There is scientific evidence that beta-glucans may reduce hay fever and infections in general and infections after surgery. Beta-glucans also might extent the life in some patients with advanced cancer when given longer than 1 year.
Oral administration of beta glucans maintains normal blood cholesterol by preventing the absorption of cholesterol from food in the stomach and intestines. As a result, low density lipoprotein (LDL; eg, bad cholesterol) is diminished suggesting that beta-glucans reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has acknowledged the following beneficial effects as a basis for health claim:
• Beta-glucan contributes to maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations.
A comprehensive review of beta-glucans and their effects on the immune system is available as a White Paper at Vitux AS.