- What other names is Beta-glucans known by?
- What is Beta-glucans?
- How does Beta-glucans work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Are there any interactions with medications?
- Dosing considerations for Beta-glucans.
Beta glucans are used for high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Beta glucans are also used to boost the immune system in people whose body defenses have been weakened by conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, or physical and emotional stress; or by treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy. Beta glucans are also used for colds (common cold), flu (influenza), H1N1 (swine) flu, allergies, hepatitis, Lyme disease, asthma, ear infections, aging, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
People apply beta glucans to the skin for dermatitis, eczema, wrinkles, bedsores, wounds, burns, diabetic ulcers, and radiation burns.
Healthcare providers sometimes give beta glucans by IV (intravenously) or by injection into the muscle to treat cancer and to boost the immune system in people with HIV/AIDS and related conditions. Beta glucans are also given by IV to prevent infection in people after surgery.
Healthcare providers sometimes give beta glucans by a shot under the skin (subcutaneously) for treating and reducing the size of skin tumors resulting from cancer that has spread.
In manufacturing, beta glucans are used as a food additive in products such as salad dressings, frozen desserts, sour cream, and cheese spreads.
There are several beta glucan supplement products that claim beta glucans taken by mouth can only be absorbed if the product is prepared by a special patented process that "micronizes" beta glucan particles to a size of 1 micron or less. However, there is no reliable evidence to support such a claim.
Likely Effective for...
- High cholesterol. Taking beta-glucans made from yeast or barley seems to reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol in people with high cholesterol after several weeks of treatment. However, there is some research that suggests beta-glucans do not affect cholesterol levels. The conflicting evidence seems to result from how products containing beta-glucans are processed.
Possibly Effective for...
- Hay fever caused by ragweed. Research suggests that taking a specific product containing yeast beta-glucans (Wellmune WGP) daily for 4 weeks reduces allergies in people allergic to ragweed.
- Cancer. There is some evidence that giving specific kinds of beta-glucans intravenously (IV) or as a shot into the muscle can extend life in some people with advanced cancer. However, beta-glucans treatment has to be given for at least one year.
- Preventing infections after surgery. Using a specific blend of beta-glucans called PGG-glucans intravenously (by IV) reduces the risk of infection after surgery. Beta-glucans also seem to reduce the risk of a serious infection called sepsis in trauma patients.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Canker sores. Early research suggests that taking beta-glucans daily for 20 days reduces canker sores.
- Diabetes. There is inconsistent evidence about the effects of beta-glucans in people with diabetes. Some early research suggests that eating oat beta-glucans daily in bread for 3 weeks improves insulin and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. However, other research suggest that eating oat beta-glucans in bread or soup does not affect blood sugar or cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. The conflicting results may be due to the treatment duration, the amount of beta-glucans taken, or how the beta-glucans product was prepared.
- HIV/AIDS. Early research shows that using beta-glucans once or twice weekly intravenously (by IV) increases immune function in people with HIV.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV). Early research suggests that applying beta-glucans to the skin reduces skin reactions related to HPV treatment.
- High blood pressure. There is inconsistent evidence about the effects of beta-glucans on blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Early research suggests that eating oat cereal containing beta-glucans does not reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. However, it appears to reduce blood pressure in some people with a higher body mass index.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research suggests that taking a specific product (Biointol) containing beta-glucans, inositol, and digestive enzymes reduces pain, bloating, and gas, but not other symptoms of IBS.
- Recovery after surgery. Early research suggests that eating bread containing barley beta-glucans daily for 3 months reduces bloating and stomach pain after stomach surgery.
- Lung infections. There is inconsistent evidence about the effects of beta-glucans on lung infections. Early research suggests that taking a specific beta-glucans product (Wellmune WGP) daily for 12 weeks improves quality of life, but it does not appear to have an effect on specific symptoms. Other research shows that taking beta-glucans might reduce the risk of lung infections in athletes, including runners or cyclists.
- Yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis). Early research suggests that applying a product containing beta-glucans to the skin might reduce the risk of developing future yeast infections in women with a history of yeast infections.
- Weight loss. Early research suggests that eating a cereal and snacks containing beta-glucans daily for 3 months does not affect weight loss in people who are overweight.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Physical and emotional stress.
- Liver problems.
- Lyme disease.
- Ear infections.
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Skin problems.
- Diabetic ulcers.
- Radiation burns.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
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