Beta Glucans to thwart colds?

Purely anecdotally, I’ve been using beta glucan to nip colds in the bud for years. If I can catch it, just at the onset of that first tickle, one or two do the trick. But if I forget or miss it and something’s trying to settle in, I wind up taking several through the day, along with increasing my dose of vitamin C from the usual 4 grams/day to about 6-8 grams (staying home especially if I’m worried about reaching bowel tolerance).

Some research is beginning to support these anecdotes of mine and several NYBC members. One small (industry) study showed reduced number of symptoms. Another study among 182 marathoners who may be more prone to colds due to suppressed mucosal immunity after a run, showed those using the beta glucans experienced “a 37% reduction in the number of cold/flu symptom days postmarathon compared to placebo (p = .026).” In a second study by the same researchers, they observed that beta glucan use was associated with “a 32% increase in salivary IgA (p = .048) at 2 hr after exercise compared to placebo.” That might provide a partial understanding of how these compounds work to stimulate a key feature of immunity.

Others have found that higher doses (8 g/day) may help lower LDL. Clearly, more studies can help us to understand the benefits, limitations and contraindications or side effects of this intriguing polysaccharides. Would that research were run based on science and the actual needs of medicine instead of the anti-science distortions of greed!

See nybuyersclub entry on Beta Glucan

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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.

Beta glucans for immune support, cholesterol regulation

Here’s an excerpt from the NYBC info sheet on Beta Glucans, an extract of yeast cell walls which has been used in immune-compromised patients.

Function: Cholesterol regulation, immune support. May also modestly improve blood pressure.

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.

Beta glucans are also well known to be effective in lowering blood lipid levels and are 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.

See also the NYBC entry on