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What is Beta Glucan?

by A.J. Lanigan, Manufacturer

From a scientific standpoint, glucans represent a unique structure comprised of glucose. The Beta, sometimes seen as "b" signifies that the glucose molecules are hooked together in a unique fashion (as opposed to Alpha or "W").

On top of that, you have 1,3 linked; 1,6 side chains; 1,4 linked etc. adding more confusion. The Beta 1,3 linked glucans tend to form long chains that wind around themselves resembling a helix (similar to a DNA molecule). The 1,4 linked glucans are linear, like laying out a chain, flat and straight.

You can find Beta Glucan in grain, seaweed, and cell wall of bacteria and cell wall of fungi. Fungal forms, predominantly mushrooms and yeast are the top two sources and the primary starting materials for all the medical literature and research.

Having the option to do either, I looked at which source could be safest, most effective and least costly to the consumer. I chose the yeast form, specifically, the Baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Here are some of the top reasons:

1. Safety - Baker's yeast and its extracts have a Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) rating with the FDA. There is no known toxicity at any dose level. There is published specific human clinical safety experience with particulate yeast b1,3-glucan in the human food, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical areas in doses up to 12 gm per day for 8 weeks (Nicolosi, et. al., Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 1999; 70: 208-12).

2. Effectiveness - Though I am confident that mushroom is a great source, it requires extensive purification and extraordinarily high doses. According to the medical literature on human patients 3000 to 6000 mg daily for an average 150 lb person. About 1500 mg of Beta 1,3-D glucan from Baker's yeast will accomplish therapeutic response. (The cost factor here makes mushroom impractical if you seek a therapeutic dose)

3. Research -
Nearly all of the research on mushroom glucans comes from Japan and other SE Asian venues. While very compelling, it is not as persuasive as research from Harvard, Tulane, University of Louisville, etc and other great US universities reporting on the yeast source glucans.

4. Cost -
If I started out with a pound of mushroom and a pound of baker's yeast and removed as much of the contaminants as possible (fats, protein, ash, etc), I end up with several times the active ingredient (Beta 1,3-D glucan). According to the USDA, a raw mushroom has 4.08% by weight of carbohydrates, where yeast has 38.2%. Since Beta Glucan represents the gross majority of the carbohydrate portion of these two sources, I would recover over 9 times the active material.

Why is grain glucan not a viable alternative? To substantially enhance the immune system, it is worthless. The 1,4 linkage would be like trying to put a Ford key into the ignition of a Chevy to crank it. The 1,4 glucan does NOT effectively turn on the glucan receptors of the key immune cells that the Beta 1,3-D glucan does. However, a 1000 mg dose of either WILL help lower cholesterol.

So what is the BEST Beta Glucan for you immune system? It is Beta 1,3-D glucan from Baker's yeast that has the highest purity of carbohydrates and highest concentration of the 1,3 linkage with 1,6 side linkage. Yeast-derived Beta 1,3-D glucans work, in part, by stimulating the innate anti-fungal immune mechanisms to fight a range of foreign challenges. That would be ours!!!!