Beta-Glucan for Your Health
Fibre is something that most people realize they need a lot of, but the science behind fibre is not that commonly known. Also known as bulk or roughage, fibre is the indigestible part of plant foods that travels through our digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements.
Without a doubt, fibre is essential for our digestive health and regular bowel movements. Fibre also helps us to feel fuller, longer; it can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.
Soluble and Insoluble Fibre
You may have heard of the terms soluble fibre or insoluble fibre. These are words that are sometimes used to describe the types of fibre in our diet. Although food scientists argue that these terms are no longer really appropriate, these terms are being used. Technically, soluble fibre includes pectins and beta glucan and insoluble fibre includes cellulose. What's important to remember is that fibre-rich foods typically contain both types of fibre.
One type of fibre that has received well-deserved attention lately is beta-glucan, a glucose polymer found in the cell walls of many cereals (e.g., oats, barley), certain types of mushrooms, yeasts, seaweed, and algae. Among these sources, barley typically has the highest beta-glucan content and oats the second highest.
Beta-glucan have been the subject of intensifying research because they have been found to have beneficial roles in lowering insulin resistance and blood cholesterol, reducing the risk of obesity, and boosting the immune system to help thwart off many diseases including cancer.
According to an article in Today's Dietician (online version), some studies suggest that a boost in immunity occurs from consuming oat beta-glucan; however, most of the beta-glucan research on immunity has been done on mushroom extracts, not oats or barley.
Beta Glucan in Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms, especially Coriolus versicolor (also known as Trametes versicolor or “turkey tails”), have commonly been used worldwide for centuries. In the 1980s, the Japanese government approved the use of protein-bound polysaccharide (PSK), a beta-glucan compound found in not just Coriolus versicolor, but many wild and cultivated mushrooms for treating several types of cancers and for widespread use in cancer immunotherapy. Instead of directly killing cancer cells, these mushroom beta-glucan are thought to stimulate immune responses that damage cancer cells. However, because PSK is bound to a protein, pure beta-glucan that have been separated and purified may act differently than beta-glucan from food.
Many mushrooms, including the common store-bought button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), contain beta glucan. However, the percentage in cultivated mushrooms is small compared to wild mushrooms. Some wild mushrooms include:
- Reishi (Ganaderma lucidum)
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)
- Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
- Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphurous)
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
- Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)
- Porcini (Boletus edulis)
Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Allergies and Rheumatoid Arthritis
In stimulating the immune system beta glucan are highly unique, because other agents that stimulate the immune system can push the system to over-stimulation, which means that they can make matters worse in the case of auto-immune illnesses such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and allergies. Beta-glucan, however, do stimulate the immune system, but never to the point where it becomes overactive.
Commonly called the superbug, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), is a bacterium that can cause serious infections. It is resistant to most antibiotics making it very difficult to treat.
Beta glucan can help to defend individuals against bacterial infections picked up in hospital, particularly nosocomial infections, E. coli and S. aureus bacteria.
Glucan, Glucans, or β-Glucans?
When researching beta-glucan there are three different terms used to describe beta-glucan. Which is correct? According to Dr. Vaclav Vetvicka, the President of the International Society for Glucan Research, glucan, glucans, or β-Glucans is pretty much all the same.
At the time of writing this article (November 2019), the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City was studying vaccine therapy with beta-glucan in hopes that it may be an effective treatment for high-risk neuroblastoma in children.
Betaglucan.org is a website that focuses on the study of beta-glucan in baker's yeast.
Dr. Vaclav Vetvicka, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of Louisville, specializes in studying the effects of beta glucan as natural immunomodulator. His website is glucan.us.
How Much Beta-Glucan Do We Need?
According to Health Canada's website, it is recommended that we get 2 to 10 grams of beta-glucan every day. Health Canada says that beta-glucan:
- Helps reduce/lower (LDL) cholesterol (which is one risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease)
- Provides support for healthy (postprandial) glucose metabolism (within two hours after a meal).
- Helps improve (postprandial) glucose metabolism (within two hours after a meal).
- Source of fiber for the maintenance of good health.
- Helps support and maintain a healthy digestive system.
If you want to integrate beta-glucan into your diet and need assistance determining how much you need, or, if you have any health ailment in which you think beta-glucan may help, we have qualified health professionals who can help you.
Established in 2007 by Dr. Behalf Sanjari, Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has a proven record of commitment providing quality health care services in the Greater Toronto Area. Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has qualified professionals who can provide the services you need. Chiro-Med has clinics located in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, visit Chiro-Med online or call 905-918-0419 or 905-235-2620 for more information.