Common Name(s): Beta-1,3-glucan, Beta-1,6-glucan, Beta-glucans
Natural sources of beta-glucans include fungal cell walls, seaweed, oats, and barley. Although collectively termed beta-glucans, variations in composition exist because of derivation from different natural sources; batch variations also occur due to differing growth conditions. Synthetic substances are being developed to overcome such variations, but until these become widely available, information for beta-glucans depends on the source: See Brewer's Yeast, Lentinan (shiitake), Maitake (grifola), Seaweed, Oats, and Barley individual monographs.Kim 2006, Laroche 2007, Novak 2009
Beta-glucans have been used in traditional medicine, especially in Japan, and have been studied for many years, particularly for their potential use as immunomodulators. Traditional Chinese and Asian medicines used medicinal mushrooms as a source of beta-glucan, while in the United States, early research focused on the immunomodulatory effects of zymosan derived from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.Novak 2009
Beta-glucans are carbohydrates; specifically, they are polymers of glucose units, either linear (with beta-1,3-glycosidic linkages) or branched with side-chains (with beta-1,6-glycosidic linkages). Beta-glucans from mushrooms and the cell wall of baker's yeast consist of D-glucose with beta-1,3 linkages and some beta-1,6 side branches, whereas the composition of cereal beta-glucan are unbranched and include beta-1,3 and beta-1,4-glycosidic linkages.Laroche 2007, Nieman 2008, Novak 2009
Uses and Pharmacology
Reviews provide an overview of the beta-glucansChen 2007, Chen 2008, Mantovani 2008, Novak 2008, Novak 2009, Volman 2008 as well as meta-analyses of studies using cereal beta-glucan in the modification of lipids and lentinan in gastric cancer.Haggård 2013, Kelly 2007, Oba 2009, Talati 2009 Clinical trials and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials have assessed the effects of beta-glucan extract on glycemic control and insulin sensitivity,He 2016 as well as beta-glucan's antimicrobial, wound healing, and immunomodulatory activities.Garcia 2014, Koray 2009, Yenidogan 2014 Beta-glucan supplementation as an adjuvant to chemotherapy in patients with a variety of advanced malignancies has been well tolerated and may have beneficial effects; further studies are needed.Weitberg 2008
Note: When the source of the beta-glucan extract used was not clearly defined for a study, data were included in this monograph. For more detailed, source-specific study information, see the individual monographs for the beta-glucan sources (Brewer's Yeast, Lentinan [shiitake], Maitake [grifola], Seaweed, Oats, and Barley).
In a 27-year-old man, beta-glucan 5 mg/week as an adjuvant to itraconazole 200 mg/day was effective in treating paracoccidioidomycosis cutaneous lesions initially unresponsive to itraconazole monotherapy.Garcia 2014
A randomized, placebo-controlled trial demonstrated improved ulcer severity scores and lymphocyte proliferation in 31 patients with recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS) given beta-glucan 10 mg twice daily for 20 days. Lymphocyte proliferation, which was lower at baseline in the 31 RAS patients compared with 42 healthy controls, significantly increased in RAS patients receiving beta-glucan treatment compared with baseline (P=0) and compared with RAS patients who received placebo (P=0.03). Likewise, ulcer severity scores decreased in the beta-glucan group compared with baseline (P=0).Koray 2009 A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 130 females undergoing modified radical mastectomy investigated the effect of beta-glucan capsules (10 mg twice daily orally for 10 days postsurgery) on postoperative seroma drain fluid. Compared with placebo, beta-glucan improved drainage volume (P=0.002) and mean time to drain removal (mean, 7.16 days vs 8.59 days with placebo; P=0.001) as well as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha levels.Yenidogan 2014
Topical use of beta-glucan gel was investigated for its effects on wound healing in a trial of 39 patients, with 26 patients completing the minimum 4-week study period required for evaluation. During the 12-week evaluation period, 7 wounds were fully healed, 8 had a more than 50% reduction in size, 5 demonstrated moderate healing progression, and 6 did not respond to treatment.King 2017
See individual monographs for dosing recommendations for the specific beta-glucan sources.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. See individual monographs for information related to the specific beta-glucan sources.
See individual monographs for interactions related to the specific beta-glucan sources.
A single-blind, randomized, controlled-exposure, crossover study conducted in 50 healthy adults identified an acute negative effect on blood pressure (ie, increases) with inhalation of beta-1,3-D-glucan particulate matter. In contrast to endotoxin, no effect on pulse pressure was observed with beta-glucan particulate matter.Zhong 2015
See individual monographs for adverse events related to the specific beta-glucan sources.
See individual monographs for toxicology information related to the specific beta-glucan sources.
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