|Beta-glucan is a cell wall polysaccharide comprising d-glucan units and is the main structural material in the cell walls of barley and oat grain. In their natural states, yeast and mushrooms contain a mixture of beta-1,3-glucan and beta-1,6-glucan. Oats and barley contain a mixture of beta-1,3-glucan and beta-1,4-glucan.
Beta-glucan is soluble fiber. Soluble dietary fiber is believed to have a beneficial effect in the reduction of high serum cholesterol levels and reducing the risk associated with such elevated levels. Foods high in water insoluble fiber are known to improve regularity and bulk formation. Water-soluble fiber content in natural and processed foods has been linked to such beneficial effects as cholesterol reduction, blood sugar regulation in diabetics and prevention of colon cancer. In addition, soluble dietary fiber can have the additional beneficial effect of reduced constipation and improved stool regularity.
Beta-glucan is a fiber-type complex sugar (polysaccharide) derived from the cell wall of baker's yeast, oat and barley fiber, and many medicinal mushrooms, such as maitake. Beta glucan is a naturally occurring polysaccharide component of cell walls of cereal grains. Beta glucan from cereal grains comprises a family of linear polysaccharides comprising D-glucopyranosyl units. The highest concentrations of beta glucan are found in barley and oats, but beta glucan can also be isolated from wheat and corn. It is also a component of yeasts and fungi.
The two primary uses of beta-glucan are to enhance the immune system and to lower blood cholesterol levels. Beta-1,3-glucan is very effective at activating white blood cells known as macrophages and neutrophils. These cells provide one of the immune system's first lines of defense against foreign invaders. A beta-glucan-activated macrophage or neutrophil can recognize and kill tumor cells, remove cellular debris resulting from oxidative damage, speed up recovery of damaged tissue, and further activate other components of the immune system. Yeast beta-glucan can bind to various cells of the non-specific immune system, such as macrophages and neutrophils.