Drugs A - Z
Generic Name: beta-Glucans
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Amylodextrins, baker's yeast, barley, beta-glucans, beta glycans, beta-glycans, d-fraction, GD, grifolan, griton-d(r), GRN, lentinan, maitake mushroom, PGG glucan, PGG-glucan, oat beta-glucan, oat fiber, oat fibre, oat gum, Plantago major L., poria cocos sclerotium, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, schizophyllan (SPG), Sparassis crispa, SSG, yeast-derived beta glucan.
Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber derived from the cell walls of algae, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and plants. It is commonly used for its cholesterol-lowering effects. Beta-glucans have also been used to treat diabetes and for weight loss.
Concentrated yeast-derived beta-glucan is more easily incorporated into food products than grain beta-glucans, which are found in cereal grains such as oats and barley. Yeast-derived beta-glucan is also more palatable than oat because it is not soluble in water and does not become viscous in water as beta-glucan from oats does. However, oat derived beta-glucan may have a higher therapeutic benefit potential.
The use of beta-glucan is a relatively new practice. Practitioners have used beta-glucan as an immunostimulant or as an adjunct cancer treatment. Beta-glucan is also used for its cholesterol-lowering effects and glycemic (blood sugar) control. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed a ruling that allowed oat bran to be registered as the first cholesterol-reducing food at an amount of 3 grams beta-glucan daily.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Numerous trials have examined the effects of oral beta-glucan on cholesterol. Small reductions in total and LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) have been reported. Little to no significant changes have been noted to occur on triglyceride levels or HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels. The sum of existing positive evidence is suggestive and not definitive.
There are several human trials supporting the use of beta-glucan for glycemic (blood sugar) control. Although earl evidence is promising, additional study is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
Beta-glucan collagen matrix, which combines the carbohydrate beta-glucan with collagen, has been used as a temporary coverage for partial thickness burns with good results. Beta-glucan collagen matrix may help reduce pain, improve healing, and lessen scar appearance. However, further study is needed to confirm these results.
Treatment with a beta-glucan, called lentinan, plus chemotherapy (S-1) may help prolong the lives of patients with gastric cancer that has returned or cannot be operated on. More research is needed in this area.
Evidence suggests that reductions in endothelial function induced by a high fat meal may be prevented when a high fat meal is taken along with a beta-glucan-containing cereal or vitamin E. Diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and hypertension (high blood pressure) data are also promising. Further study is needed in this area.
Heart protection during coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG):
Early research suggests that treatment with beta glucan before a heart surgery, called coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), may help protect against heart damage. More research is needed in this area.
High blood pressure:
There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of beta-glucan for high blood pressure. Better study is needed to determine a relationship.
Beta glucan may boost the immune system. Therefore, it has been studied as a possible way to increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments. Although early research is promising, more studies are needed to determine if beta-glucan can help treat breast cancer patients.
PGG-glucan, an immunomodulator, has been studied in patients undergoing surgery, particularly abdominal surgery. Currently, PGG-glucan appears to have positive results in decreasing postoperative infection. More study is warranted to make a firm recommendation.
Researchers suggest different types of fiber may have an effect on satiety and energy intake. Short-term use of fermentable fiber or nonfermentable fiber supplements does not appear to promote weight loss. More study is needed to confirm these findings.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Allergies, anti-aging, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral, asthma, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), bedsores, bladder sphincter disorders (sphincter deficiency), colorectal adenocarcinomas, common cold, constipation, Crohn's disease, dermatitis, diabetic ulcers, diarrhea, diverticulitis (colon), ear infections, eczema, fibromyalgia, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, immunomodulator, immunostimulant, influenza, lung tumor, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), radiation burns, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, shock, skin care, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, wounds, wrinkle prevention.
Adults (18 years and older)
Beta-glucan has been taken by mouth for a variety of conditions. Cereals containing beta-glucan or concentrates containing fiber (typically 8-15 grams of beta-glucan) are the most common forms. For hyperlipidemia, 3-16 grams of beta-glucan daily have been studied and found moderately effective in reducing HDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels. For high blood pressure, 5.52 grams of beta-glucan daily have been studied. For cardiovascular disease, 4 servings daily of two dietary fibers, beta-glucan (0.75 grams per serving) and psyllium (1.78 grams per serving), have been studied. For diabetes, 50-90 grams carbohydrate portions of barley grain with meals have been studied for up to 12 weeks. Higher amounts of fiber and beta-glucan may result in a stronger effect. In addition, 10 grams of a barley beta-glucan fiber supplement (Cerogen®) that contained 6.31 grams of beta-glucan has been added to foods and drinks. For breast cancer, patients have taken 1-3, 1-6, D-beta glucan daily for 15 days. For heart protection during coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), 700 milligrams or 1,400 milligrams of beta-1,3/1,6-glucan has been taken for five days in a row before surgery.
Beta-glucan has also been applied to burns on the skin as a collagen matrix for 24 hours.
Injections of beta-glucan forms have also been studied, and these should only be given under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for beta-glucan in children, and use is not recommended.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to beta-glucan.
Side Effects and Warnings
Taken by mouth, both yeast and fungal beta-glucans seem to be well tolerated with minimal adverse effects. Beta-glucan has a generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status in the United States. Lentinan and schizophyllan have been safely used in studies. Although not well studied in humans, the co-administration of aspirin and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with beta-glucan can lead to severe gastrointestinal damage resulting in enteric-induced bacterial peritonitis.
There is insufficient information regarding the safety of beta-glucans when used topically (applied on the skin) or subcutaneously (injected under the skin).
Most studies that have evaluated the parenteral use of beta-glucans have used specific forms including PGG-glucan from a proprietary strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and certain fungal-derived beta-glucans lentinan and schizophyllan (SPG). PGG-glucan has been safely used in studies when given at the appropriate times under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.
When given intravenously, beta-glucans may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, hives, flushing, rash, high or low blood pressure, or excessive urination.
Beta-glucan has also been associated with inflammatory airway disease and lung inflammation.
Particulate beta-glucan may not be safe. Preliminary evidence suggests intravenous beta-glucans in the microparticulate form may cause serious side effects such as hepatosplenomegaly, granuloma formation, and microembolization.
Use cautiously in AIDS or AIDS-related complex (ARC) patients. Keratoderma of the palms and soles may develop in these patients who are receiving yeast beta-glucans. The condition may begin during the first two weeks of therapy and resolve 2-4 weeks after discontinuation of beta-glucans.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Interactions with Drugs
Lentinan may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
For wound healing after surgery, evidence suggests beta-glucans may reduce inflammation and speed the repair of surgical wounds. Severe gastrointestinal damage has been associated with intake of beta-glucan and most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) and aspirin. Caution is advised.
Preliminary study suggests that a BCNU/beta-glucan combination may help to improve current chemotherapy treatment efficacy.
Barley may lower blood sugar levels. Beta-glucan from other sources may alter blood glucose levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Beta-glucan-containing sources have been used to treat hyperlipidemia and may act additively with other cholesterol-lowering agents.
Although not well studied in humans, beta-glucan may alter blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients with low blood pressure or taking medications for high blood pressure. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before combining therapies.
Fiber may affect the absorption of other oral agents by reducing gastrointestinal transit time.
Hordenine, a chemical in the root of germinating barley, is a sympathomimetic and combination use may theoretically result in additive effects. Sympathomimetic effects include increased heart rate, sweating, and increased blood pressure. Check with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before combining therapies.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Lentinan may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
Beta-glucan-containing sources have been used to treat hyperlipidemia and may act additively with other cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, such as red yeast rice. The cholesterol-lowering effects of beta-glucan may increase when taken with plant stanol esters.
Beta-glucan may reduce inflammation and speed the repair of surgical wounds. Severe gastrointestinal damage has been associated with intake of beta-glucan and most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin. Caution is advised when taking anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements in combination with beta-glucan.
Barley may lower blood sugar levels. Beta-glucan from other sources may alter blood glucose levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
Fiber may affect the absorption of other oral agents by reducing gastrointestinal transit time.
Although not well studied in humans, beta-glucan may alter blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements for high blood pressure or those with low blood pressure. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before combining therapies.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature, and was peer-reviewed and edited by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Erica Seamon, PharmD (Nova Southeastern University); Kris Swinney, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Isabell Syelsky, PharmD (Northeastern University); Brian Szczechowski, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Chris Tonelli, MA (Emmanuel College); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Jen Woods, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Aarsaether E, Rydningen M, Einar Engstad R, et al. Cardioprotective effect of pretreatment with beta-glucan in coronary artery bypass grafting. Scand Cardiovasc J 2006 Oct;40(5):298-304.
Casiraghi MC, Garsetti M, Testolin G, et al. Post-prandial responses to cereal products enriched with barley beta-glucan. J Am Coll Nutr 2006 Aug;25(4):313-20.
Castro IA, Monteiro VC, Barroso LP, et al. Effect of eicosapentaenoic/docosahexaenoic fatty acids and soluble fibers on blood lipids of individuals classified into different levels of lipidemia. Nutrition 2007 Feb;23(2):127-37.
Demir G, Klein HO, Mandel-Molinas N, et al. Beta glucan induces proliferation and activation of monocytes in peripheral blood of patients with advanced breast cancer. Int Immunopharmacol 2007 Jan;7(1):113-6.
Keenan JM, Goulson M, Shamliyan T, et al. The effects of concentrated barley beta-glucan on blood lipids in a population of hypercholesterolaemic men and women. Br J Nutr 2007 Jun;97(6):1162-8.
Makelainen H, Anttila H, Sihvonen J, et al. The effect of beta-glucan on the glycemic and insulin index. Eur J Clin Nutr 2007 Jun;61(6):779-85.
Maki KC, Galant R, Samuel P, et al. Effects of consuming foods containing oat beta-glucan on blood pressure, carbohydrate metabolism and biomarkers of oxidative stress in men and women with elevated blood pressure. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;61(6):786-95
Naumann E, van Rees AB, Onning G, et al. Beta-glucan incorporated into a fruit drink effectively lowers serum LDL-cholesterol concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 2006 Mar;83(3):601-5.
Nimura H, Mitsumori N, Takahashi N, et al. [S-1 combined with lentinan in patients with unresectable or recurrent gastric cancer]. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho 2006 Jun;33 Suppl 1:106-9.
Olah A, Belagyi T, Poto L, et al. Synbiotic control of inflammation and infection in severe acute pancreatitis: a prospective, randomized, double blind study. Hepatogastroenterology 2007 Mar;54(74):590-4.
Poppitt SD, van Drunen JD, McGill AT, et al. Supplementation of a high-carbohydrate breakfast with barley beta-glucan improves postprandial glycaemic response for meals but not beverages. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(1):16-24.
Queenan KM, Stewart ML, Smith KN, et al. Concentrated oat beta-glucan, a fermentable fiber, lowers serum cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults in a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J 2007 Mar 26;6:6.
Ramakers JD, Volman JJ, Biörklund M, et al. Fecal water from ileostomic patients consuming oat beta-glucan enhances immune responses in enterocytes. Mol Nutr Food Res 2007 Feb;51(2):211-20.
Reyna-Villasmil N, Bermúdez-Pirela V, Mengual-Moreno E, et al. Oat-derived beta-glucan significantly improves HDLC and diminishes LDLC and non-HDL cholesterol in overweight individuals with mild hypercholesterolemia. Am J Ther 2007 Mar-Apr;14(2):203-12.
Theuwissen E, Mensink RP. Simultaneous intake of beta-glucan and plant stanol esters affects lipid metabolism in slightly hypercholesterolemic subjects. J Nutr 2007 Mar;137(3):583-8.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.