What Is beta-glucan? The Heart-Healthy Fiber Explained

What Is Beta-glucan? The Heart-Healthy Fiber Explained

Oats, barley, and rye are just a few examples of food sources that naturally contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre. Numerous health advantages have been linked to it, including improved immune function and lower cholesterol levels.
 
A significant portion of the health-promoting qualities of foods like oats, wheat, and barley are due to a type of fibre called beta-glucan.
 
It has been shown to increase immunity and stabilize blood sugar levels, and it has been extensively studied for its effects on heart health and cholesterol levels.
 
As a result, you might be curious about how to increase your intake of beta-glucan to enjoy all of its health advantages.
 
In-depth information about beta-glucan, including what it is, how it functions, and its potential health effects, is covered in this article.
 
 

What is beta-glucan?

Dietary fibre falls into two main categories: soluble and insoluble.
 
Fibre that dissolves in water and turns into a thick, gel-like substance is known as soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, is insoluble. Instead, as it passes through your digestive system, it absorbs liquid.
 
A particular type of soluble dietary fibre is beta-glucan. It can be found in some yeasts, bacteria, fungi, and algae, as well as in the cell walls of some types of plants. It is also available as a supplement.
 
It has been thoroughly researched for its capacity to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar management, and provide other potential health benefits.
 

SUMMARY

A type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan is present in the cell walls of some plants. It comes in foods and supplements and is linked to several health advantages.
 
 

How does beta-glucan work?

Beta-glucan slows the passage of food through your intestines, like other types of soluble fibre.
 
Your body will take longer to digest food as a result, which may help you feel fuller for longer.
 
Additionally, beta-glucan slows the bloodstream's assimilation of sugar. This can aid in blood sugar regulation improvement and blood sugar level stabilization.
 
Additionally, to support healthy blood cholesterol levels, this fibre lessens the absorption of cholesterol in your digestive system.
 

SUMMARY

Beta-glucan passes through your digestive system gradually. To promote heart health, it can lower cholesterol absorption and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
 
 
 

Food sources of beta-glucan

 
Numerous food sources naturally contain beta-glucan.
 
Although it can be found in other foods, beta-glucan is most abundant in grains like barley and oats.
 
Suitable sources include:
  1. oats
  2. barley
  3. sorghum
  4. rye
  5. maize
  6. triticale
  7. wheat
  8. durum wheat
  9. rice
  10. mushrooms
  11. seaweed
 
In addition, some strains of bacteria and fungi, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is used to produce nutritional yeast, wine, beer, and some baked goods, also contain fibre. This does not imply, however, that alcoholic beverages are a good source of beta-glucan.
 

SUMMARY 

Foods that contain beta-glucan include certain types of yeast, seaweed, and cereal grains like rye, oats, barley, and sorghum.
 
 

Benefits of beta-glucan

 Many health advantages have been connected to beta-glucan.
 

Boosts heart health

 According to several studies, beta-glucan may improve heart health and guard against heart disease.
 
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a health claim in 1997 that suggested beta-glucan from whole oats, oat bran, and whole oat flour may lower the risk of heart disease.
 
This is so that the total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in your blood, both of which are risk factors for heart disease, can be decreased by fibre.
 
One study found that taking 3 grams of beta-glucan daily for 8 weeks reduced total cholesterol by almost 9% and LDL cholesterol by 15%.
 
Additionally, beta-glucan contains a lot of antioxidants, which are substances that can fight off dangerous free radicals, reduce inflammation, and shield the body from chronic diseases like heart disease.
 
 

Regulates blood sugar levels.

According to some studies, beta-glucan may help with blood sugar control.
 
A review of four studies found that giving type 2 diabetics 2.5–3.5 grams of beta-glucan daily for 3–8 weeks could lower fasting blood sugar levels and enhance long-term blood sugar regulation.
 
According to other studies, adding beta-glucan to meals high in carbohydrates may lower blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal.
 
Additionally, a significant review found that eating more cereal fibre, including beta-glucan, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
 
 

Stimulates the immune system

 Although more human studies are required, some studies imply that beta-glucan may improve immune function.
 
Beta-glucan has been linked to immune cell activation and infection protection in numerous animal and test-tube studies.
 
More specifically, it has been demonstrated that beta-glucan stimulates the activity of some immune cells, such as macrophages, neutrophils, and monocytes.
 
Beta-glucan may also lower levels of several markers used to measure inflammation, including tumour necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1), and interleukin-6 (IL-6), according to additional test-tube and animal studies.
 

SUMMARY

Beta-glucan may enhance immune function, stabilize blood sugar levels, and support heart health.
 
 

Uses of beta-glucan supplements

 Because they can lower levels of both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, beta-glucan supplements are frequently used to improve heart health.
 
They can help you consume more fibre, improve blood sugar control, support weight loss, and promote digestive health and regularity, just like other fibre supplements.
 
In some circumstances, beta-glucan is even applied topically to hasten tissue repair and wound healing.
 
Additionally, due to its capacity to increase the activity of your body's immune cells, this fibre is occasionally used as a natural cancer treatment.
 
However, more studies in humans are required because the majority of research on the impacts of beta-glucan on cancer is restricted to test-tube and animal studies.
 
 

SUMMARY

To increase fibre intake and support heart health, blood sugar control, digestive health, and weight management, beta-glucan supplements are used. Although more research is required, it is also occasionally used in the treatment of cancer.
 
 

Should you take beta-glucan supplements?

 The FDA states that taking 3 grams of beta-glucan daily can help lower cholesterol.
 
Fortunately, the majority of people can easily follow this advice by including a variety of fibre-rich foods in a healthy diet.
 
For instance, 1/2 cup (100 grams) of raw barley and 1 cup (81 grams) of dry oats each contain about 6.5 grams of beta-glucan. Approximately 1.6 grams of beta-glucan and 4 grams, respectively, are present per 1/2 cup of cooked oats and barley.
 
However, some people decide to increase their intake by taking supplements.
 
Remember that not all supplements are made equally. If you decide to buy supplements, choose items from reputable companies that have undergone third-party testing to guarantee quality and safety.
 
Additionally, be aware that some medications, such as immunosuppressants and those used to treat diabetes or high blood pressure, may interact with beta-glucan supplements.
 
Last but not least, some people may experience digestive side effects from taking a fibre supplement, such as beta-glucan, such as nausea, bloating, or diarrhoea, particularly if they're not used to eating a lot of fibre.
 
The best course of action is to consult your doctor before taking beta-glucan supplements, especially if you're taking these drugs or have any underlying medical issues.
 

SUMMARY 

Although the majority of people can obtain enough beta-glucan through diet alone, taking a supplement can be a simple way to increase your intake.
 
 

The bottom line

 Oats, barley, sorghum, and rye, among other foods, naturally contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre.
 
It has been linked to a wide range of health advantages, including the potential to improve blood sugar control, lower cholesterol levels, and strengthen the immune system.
 
It's widely accessible in supplement form and used as a complementary medicine for a variety of ailments.
 
Still, eating a variety of nutrient-rich, high-fibre foods as part of a balanced diet is the best way to increase your intake.

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