Beta Glucans Fact Sheet

Immune response relies on the stimulation of macrophages – white blood cells that scour the body on ‘search and destroy’ missions targeting harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, these “Special Forces” are not always on duty – they must first be activated. And that’s the role of beta-glucans. They give the “go order” to the body’s macrophages. The more beta-glucans in the system, the more macrophages will be called into action. *

Polysaccharides containing D-glucose as the only monomer are commonly referred to as D-glucans. Starches, Glycogen and Cellulose are chemically ‘glucans’; but the glucose molecules are 1,4-linked and are not the immuno-stimulant type of “glucans”.

The immuno-stimulatory b-glucans however, are those in which the glucose molecules are 1,3-linked, and are commonly known as b-glucans. When the b-1,3-linkage glucose molecules have branches attached in position 6 of the glucose in the backbone chain, they are defined as the b-1,3/1,6-D-glucans. These glucans exist in foods such as oats, barley, and some medicinal mushrooms and may be obtained from the cell walls of Baker’s Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).

Polysaccharide tests have been designed to distinguish between the different types of glucose linkages, and therefore make it possible to identify the type of glucan in question. Products need to be tested to ensure purchasers are receiving the immuno-stimulatory b-glucan with the appropriate activity.