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What Is Beta-D-Glucan?

Glyn Sinclair
Glyn Sinclair

Beta-d-glucan is a type of molecule that can be found in the cell walls of cereal fibers such as wheat and barley. It can also occur in bacteria and fungi. Products made with these molecules can be taken as a supplement in pill form, liquid form, or administered via an injection under the skin. There are a number of conditions that beta-d-glucan may be used to treat and some of these can include high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis and cancer. It is thought to boost the immune system when taken intravenously, and prevent cholesterol absorption from food when taken in pill form.

There are a number of benefits that can be gained when taking beta-d-glucan. Studies have shown that people who have suffered physical trauma are less likely to experience infection when treated with beta-d-glucan. It has also been known to promote wound healing from surgery or random trauma. The effects of radiation exposure are also lessened when taking the substance. Other studies have shown beta-d-glucan to have anti-tumor properties.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

When taking the supplement for high cholesterol, the dosage is typically in the range of 3,000 mg (about three grams) to 15,000 mg (about 15 grams) each day. It is recommended that up to 1,000 mg (about one gram) per day be taken to boost the immune system. People are also able to apply the substance to the skin for conditions such as eczema, bedsores, burns, and even age lines. When taken in liquid or capsule form the supplement should generally be ingested on an empty stomach for maximum results. Beta-d-glucan can also be supplemented by eating baker’s yeast and other grains such as barley and oats.

The side effects of taking beta-d-glucan in pill or liquid form are unknown. When taken via injection, there are a number of side effects to watch out for though. Some of these can include fever, diarrhea, changes in blood pressure, lowered numbers of white blood cells and nausea. It is not advised to take more than 15,000mg per day. Some people with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) have been known to report skin hardening of the feet and hands when taking the supplement.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not take beta-d-glucan. Others taking medications that depress the immune system should consult with their doctors before taking the supplement. Some manufacturers claim that for the supplement to be effective it has to be micronized, or broken down to extremely small particles, however, this has not yet been proven to be the case. The effectiveness of consuming this supplement is measured by the degree to which it stimulates the immune system and is not necessarily based on the actual amount that is ingested.

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Discussion Comments


Many sellers of medicinal mushroom supplements are promoting their products by suggesting that beta-glucans and polysaccharides are the same. This is true to the extend that all beta-glucans are polysaccharides, but not all polysaccharides are beta-glucans. A supplement can have 75 percent polysaccharides, but only 2 percent of these might be the therapeutically effective beta-glucans.

Also, another very important fact is that polysaccharides/beta-glucans from fungi (like mushooms such as turkey tail, chaga, agaricus blazei) are only bioavailable if the supplement is a true extract; the mushroom should have been subjected to hot water extraction as a minimum. Dried/powdered mushrooms are indigestible by humans.

Good supplements will list the exact percentage of polysaccharides and beta-glucans on their label; these exact percentages can only be determined after extraction.

It is highly recommended to ask for a Certificate of Analysis to verify the above facts - like with online sellers. The majority of online sellers are selling dried powders, encapsulated, stamped into tablets or raw, using deceiving statements such as 'extracted in a ratio of 10:1!' - meaning they are offering you dried and powdered mushroom (90 percent of the water has been 'extracted') but actually these are not extracts at all in the sense I described earlier, and they have a bioavailability of maximum three to five percent. There is no therapeutic effect.

The bottom line is: be very critical and don't believe all the fancy stories just like that. Ask for CoA verification and check the label.

And that even CoA's cannot always be trusted (at least not when they've been issued by Atlas Bioscience) as shown in a report from NBC that can be found on online: 'The Hansen Files Supplements Part 3.'

Awkward but true (see NBC report): some of the worst companies are American based ones.

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