Beta Glucan is a soluble fiber found naturally in several foods including oats, beans, peas, lentils, fruits barley, and certain mushrooms. There is also a type of Beta-Glucan found in yeast which is classified as a polysaccharide.
Beta-Glucan is the best source of heart-healthy soluble fiber that you can get, and this is why doctors recommend eating oatmeal to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
Apart from being available in foods, beta-glucan is also sold in supplement form. Medicines with beta-glucan supplements can help with the following health benefits;
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- High cholesterol
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ear infections
- Liver problems
Beta-glucan is also believed to strengthen the immune system and therefore, it fights colds, flu, and even cancer. Beta-glucan also increases the body’s defense against the harmful effects of stress.
The following are the health benefits of Beta-Glucan;
- Lower cholesterol
Beta-glucan found in oats may help reduce the cholesterol level according to a report carried out by Nutrition Reviews in 2011. Looking at the studies conducted over the previous 13 years, the authors found out that oat-derived beta-glucan may significantly reduce levels of total and LDL which is known as a bad cholesterol.
The authors noted that the daily consumption of oat is associated with 5-7 percent reductions in total and LDL cholesterol levels, respectively.
- Increased immunity
Currently, there is a lack of clinical trials supporting the claim that beta-glucan can improve the immune system and help fight diseases such as colds, flu and other types of infection. However, some preliminary research has suggested that beta-glucan may strengthen the immune systems and fight some viruses.
A study from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2004, tested on mice revealed that beta-glucan might offset the negative effects of exercise-induced stress and increase the immune system’s defense against upper respiratory tract infections.
- Control blood sugar
According to Heart UK, soluble fiber such as beta-glucan slows the absorption of sugars from the diet. It can also be useful in controlling blood sugar levels. Although the early studies appear promising, more scientific studies are needed to verify that beta-glucan can be used to control blood sugar.
Beta-glucans from cereals have shown to be reducing the glycemic response to carbohydrates. There has been evidence that shows that diets containing more foods that elicit low glycemic responses can improve metabolic control of diabetes.
So, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, incorporating ingredients such as beta-glucans into food may bring the result of lowered GI responses.
- Reduce blood pressure
Beta-glucan can help to reduce blood pressure. According to the AAFC publication, a study in 2007 by the European Journal of Clinical Nutritionist reported that beta-glucan is very effective at lowering blood pressure in people who are obese and already have high blood pressure.
- Fighting cancer
Preliminary research has shown that beta-glucan may activate some cells and proteins that fight cancer such as [T-cells and natural killer cells]. Moreover, tests on animals have shown that beta-glucan may inhibit the spread of cancer cells.