Beta glucans and immune function

We were interested to see an entry by Dr. Mark Hyman a few days ago on the Huffington Post in which he spoke of beta glucans as part of an approach to staying healthy during cold and flu season: “Much research has shown that these compounds [beta-1,3-glucan and beta-1,6-glucans] up-regulate the function of our innate immune system. This part of your immune system is the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria. It helps your white blood cells bind to and kill viruses and bacteria.”

Here’s the description of the product Beta Max, which NYBC stocks from Jarrow. (The capsules are listed as containing 250 mg of at least 75% beta-1,3-glucan and beta-1,6-glucans.)

Beta glucans enhance the power of the immune system by activating a certain type of white blood cell known as macrophages. These cells patrol the body and fend off foreign invaders such as bacteria and fungi by engulfing them.

Research has shown that beta glucans also have a positive action on other white blood cells such as B-Lymphocytes, Natural Killer cells, and Suppressor T cells. The end outcome is that the body becomes better equipped at immune-mediated activities such as fighting off infection and combating cancer. Beta glucans have been used, therefore, in immune-compromised surgical patients to lower the rate of infection and both as a preventive measure against cancer and as an adjunct to chemotherapy.

Beta glucans are also well known to be effective in lowering blood lipid levels and is the key factor for why oat bran is so beneficial in this regard. Like other soluble fiber components, beta glucans work by binding cholesterol, facilitating its elimination from the body. Because beta glucans lower the bad LDL and increase the good HDL blood cholesterol levels, they are useful in preventing coronary heart disease.

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