Beta-glucan is a type of sugar found in grains such as oats and barley, certain varieties of mushrooms and other fungi, yeasts and seaweed. Beta-glucan from different sources are believed to have different health benefits.
Although some of the health claims associated with beta glucan are disputed within the scientific community, some benefits are universally accepted through extensive research and clinical trials.
Beta Glucan and Heart Health
According to the U.S National Institute of Health (NIH), beta glucan is shown to reduce coronary heart disease by reducing the absorption of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a saturated fat derived from animal sources and associated with the accumulation of plaque within the coronary arteries and subsequent heart disease.
Beta-glucan from oats and barley is believed to be most effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Beta Glucan and Diabetes
There is also research that suggests that the type of beta gluten found in oats and barley can help to regulate glucose intolerance by retarding the absorption of glucose after meals. This could help to reduce the growth of obesity and Type-2 Diabetes in the United States. Beta-glucan from grains such as oats and barley are believed to regulate glucose levels while reducing overeating by increasing the feeling of satiety after a meal.
Beta Glucan and Cancer
Chinese medicine has used mushrooms to treat cancer for centuries. Recent studies in the use of mushroom-derived beta glucan have shown promising results in slowing the growth of tumors as well as the development of additional tumors. This variety of beta-glucan is also believed to help to mitigate the effects of conventional cancer treatments.
This research was performed in Japan, using specific varieties of Japanese mushrooms, resulting in the Japanese government's approval of beta-glucan for treatment of cancer.
Beta Glucan and the Immune System
Beta glucan's efficacy in fighting cancer as well various other ailments is believed to originate in its effects on the immune system. Beta glucans are believed to behave as immunomodulators or regulators and stimulators of the immune system.
Specifically, they increase the activity of macrophages, immune cells that lead the war against invading agents, destroying them while stimulating other immune cells to join the battle. Beta glucans are also believed to stimulate white blood cells to destroy viruses and tumors, and in some cases, cancer cells.
Studies have also shown beta glucans to be effective in fighting infections as diverse as drug-resistant bacteria to the common cold.
While beta glucans can be found in commonly eaten foods, beta glucan health supplements provide the purest forms for better absorption and increased efficacy according to the health benefits desired by the consumer. For more information on beta glucan supplements, contact a vitamin shop near you.