If someone were to compile a list of important but least familiar nutrients, beta-glucans would undoubtedly rank near the top. Why? Because of what we’ve learned from the extensive research ongoing in the field of beta-glucan immune support.
Beta-glucans aren polysaccharides found in cell walls of:
- seaweed algae
and barley and oats. They are known to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol between 5 and 10 percent. However, the insoluble fibers’ benefits may extend beyond the cardiovascular system.
Take the findings of this recent systematic review published in the March 2021 Journal of Food and Function. It analyzed 34 trials investigating beta-glucans’ overall impacts on human health.
Led by Marigoula Vlassopouloua, M.Sc., of Harokopio University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, the team of Greek researchers concluded that beta-glucan consumption resulted in “enhanced immune defense.”
They also noted the fibers’ “beneficial effects” on people suffering from seasonal allergies, the herpes simplex virus, and osteoarthritis.
However, their greatest emphasis was on beta-glucans’ ability to reduce the intensity of acute upper respiratory infections.
Beta-Glucan Immune Support vs. Lung Infections
In October of 2018, the Journal of Dietary Supplements published the results of a randomized controlled trial taking a more specific look at beta-glucan immune support regarding lung infections.
Conducted by Magrieux Nutriscience’s Eunice Mah and her team, the study included 357 healthy adult runners entered in the 2017 Austin Marathon.
For 45 days before the race, on race day itself, and for 45 days afterward, 132 participants drank a dairy-based beverage containing 250 mg of beta-glucans. The remaining 225 runners drank a placebo.
Throughout the study, each runner completed a daily survey that assessed their upper respiratory tract infections symptoms.
The results indicated that beta-glucan immune support had a significant impact. The group of 132 runners reported:
- fewer days with upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms
- less severe URTI symptoms, including nasal discharge and sore throats
- missing fewer post-marathon workouts due to URTIs.
The Nutriscience trial’s findings confirmed earlier results achieved by researchers from Germany’s BioTeSys GmbH and published in the September 2018 Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
For 16 weeks, Tanita Dharsono and her team worked with 299 healthy adults aged between 18 and 70. One group of participants took 900 mg of beta-glucans each day, while the other took a placebo.
At the trial’s end, the researchers reported that the beta-glucans group experienced “significantly lower” severity in their URTI symptoms.
However, the data they collected concerning the participants’ moods also linked the group’s reduced symptoms to a “significant increase in their joy subscore!”
Historical Evidence Backing Beta-Glucan Immune Support
Other older studies yielded similar results. Some of their conclusions clearly showed positive results for participants taking beta-glucans when compared with those receiving placebos. Let’s take a look at these examples of beta-glucan immune support:
- January 2013: Compared to a placebo, beta-glucan supplements reduced the frequency of common colds by an impressive 25%. They also helped people with colds sleep better.
- August 2012: Only ten percent of the women taking beta-glucans reported respiratory symptoms, compared to 29 percent for the placebo group.
That’s a nearly 300-percent increase in reported symptoms for those who didn’t take beta-glucans! And not only that, but the beta-glucans group enjoyed better moods and higher energy levels.
- April 2012: In this 2012 study, all but 2% of the participants on placebos ended up contracting the common cold. Compare that to 15.6% of the beta-glucan group who remained cold-free.
The researchers also noted that cold symptoms among the beta-glucan group were “less pronounced and subsided faster.”
Where to Get Beta-Glucans
Given the evidence in favor of beta-glucan immune support, there’s no reason not to add more of these essential fibers to a plant-based diet – especially when it’s much easier than it might sound.
Just ask yourself where you could begin fitting one or more of these foods into your daily meal plan:
- oats and whole grains
- baker’s yeast
- nutritional yeast
- mushrooms, such as reishi, maitake, and shiitake
What’s not to love about eating foods with the power to boost your heart health and immune system – not to mention keeping you more joyful even when you’re battling a cold?