Often dubbed the “fourth macronutrient”, it’s easy to overlook fibre in favour of the much-talked-about big three. Now, all fibre is a type of carbohydrate, and it’s likely this sub-category status has affected its standing. But that doesn’t make it any less vital, especially when it comes to your gut health and the myriad of benefits that come from keeping your digestive system in perfect harmony. Ok, but you came here to swot up on beta-glucan, so what has all this chat about fibre got to do with anything?
Well, beyond the non-soluble and soluble fibre distinction, there are also many other varieties of the nutrient, including beta-glucans which are found in the cells of certain types of yeast, algae (hello, spirulina), bacteria, and fungi.
Most of the grain-based beta-glucans are soluble, meaning they dissolve in water and are typically fermentable in your digestive tract (foods that are high in fermentable carbs can cause symptoms like gas, bloating and stomach pain so a word of caution). On the flip side, beta-glucans from bacteria, fungi, and yeast are usually insoluble in water.
Among fibres, they are uniquely biologically active, which plays a part in all of the health benefits that come from them. These include the aforementioned gut health, but they can also aid heart health, act as an anti-oxidant and even boost your immune system.
What The Studies Say
A 2011 meta-analysis of 126 clinical studies from University College Dublin found the consumption of beta-glucan from oats and barley to significantly decrease blood cholesterol levels. Too much cholesterol in your blood is an issue as it builds up in the walls of your arteries, slowing down blood flow and causing a process called atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease, so any way to bring it down is worth exploring.
Studies have also shown beta-glucan to have antioxidant properties, with one study published in Rejuvenation Research in 2020, finding that beta-glucans exerted anti-aging effects on fish by promoting antioxidant activity and reducing oxidative stress.
However, it’s their immune-boosting powers that grab the headlines with a 2010 study conducted on the effect of a type of beta-glucan (beta-1,3/1,6 glucan) derived from bakers yeast, finding that from the subjects tested there were fewer reports of upper respiratory tract infection symptoms, better overall health and increased vigour.
A 2020 systematic review published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research further posited the idea that this particular type may offer increased immuno-surveillance, the processes by which cells of the immune system look for and recognise foreign pathogens. Research also shows that beta-glucan is able to help train and strengthen the innate defence functions of essential white blood cells, which can help protect you from immunologic threats and infection.
It’s for this immune support that we included this specific beta-glucan in our vegan meal replacement, Peakblend. Labelled as Wellmune®, it’s a beta 1,3/1,6 glucan extracted from the cell wall of a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast. Highly purified, coeliacs need not worry as Wellmune® is gluten-free and unlike many beta-glucans is the only one supported by over a dozen published, peer-reviewed clinical studies.
Beta-glucan is just one of several superfoods found in Peakblend, from stress-busting ashwagandha to the might flaxseed, each one carefully selected to cover all your needs and support you on your biggest days.