Beta-Glucan, Prebiotic for Heart & Gut
Most people had been told to eat more fruits and vegetables. They get nagged by their parents, doctors, and even the grandma who lives across the street. But why? What’s so great about fruits and vegetables? Well, it’s because it contains complex carbohydrates known as fibres which helps in the digestive system, prolong satiation, and other health benefits. Great! I’ll just eat more fruits and vegetables then. Well, before you start munching every grass you see, it is best to understand that not all fibres are the same. Different sources of fibre would have different types and function, although they all have one common benefit which is improving the digestive system. One fibre that stands out from the rest is beta-glucan, which could greatly improve heart health, digestive system, and lower cholesterol level.
What is Beta Glucan?
Beta-glucan is a dietary fibre found in plants such as whole grains, oats, bran, wheat, and barley. Some bacterias such as yeast and fungi such as maitake and reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucan too. Depending on the source of beta-glucan, it could greatly influence its physicochemical properties. It is generally insoluble in water hence it is an ideal fibre that could aid in digestion. However, the ultimate function of beta-glucan is that it can effectively lower cholesterol levels if taken daily, making it a great preventive treatment for hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular diseases, and an efficient supplement or alternative to cholesterol medications.
The clinical data for beta-glucan are extremely extensive that Food Drug Administration (FDA) and Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia has included beta-glucan into dietary guidelines and clinical practice guidelines in lowering cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases treatment. The guideline states that consuming 3g of oat beta-glucan a day were clinically proven to be able to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level.
How does beta-glucan work?
Since it is a soluble fibre, it can absorb water forming a gel that could slow down digestion and provide a stable increase of blood glucose while prolonging satiety. Furthermore, it can prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine and the blood by binding to it and be excreted out, making it effective in lowering cholesterol level if consumed regularly.
Aside from people with gastrointestinal issues such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, SIBO, or those who are sensitive to soluble fibre, beta-glucan is safe to be consumed daily from various sources. The most common source for beta-glucan is oats and barley. Does this mean that you can skip your cholesterol medication and just consume beta-glucan? It is situational, please consult your doctor before self-prescribing your medication. Generally, doctors would recommend patients with borderline hyperlipidemia consume beta-glucan regularly instead of medication. However, for those with very high cholesterol level, medications are a must and supplementation of beta-glucan can be used.
What are the benefits of consuming beta-glucan
1. Improve heart health
With the ability to absorb cholesterol in your blood and food, it can effectively lower your cholesterol level and triglyceride level in a long run hence improving your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart attacks, and even haemorrhages. The key is to consume a minimum of 3g of oat beta-glucan daily to effectively lower your cholesterol level.
2. Improve digestion and gut health
When beta-glucan gel up, it creates a rather dense mass in your intestine. This would stimulate the movement of the intestine and improve digestion and bowel movement. Having regular bowel movement with solid stool is a sign of a healthy gut, as it means that our gut can digest and absorb nutrients for food effectively because whatever goes in, would come out.
3. Regulate blood sugars
Because it is fibre based, it reduces the digestion time of food hence making blood sugar not spike abruptly, but instead a steady increase over long hours. This would help in reducing the development of diabetes type II as well as help maintaining satiety for a longer time compared to food with less fibre.
4. Boost immune system
By reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stable blood sugar, our body can develop a better immune system to fight off infection. Furthermore, beta-glucan is when binding with cells, they can stimulate production and increase the activity of immune cells. However, more specific studies are required to further support this hypothesis. Furthermore, beta-glucan could help in stimulating immune cells through the form of prebiotic and probiotic interaction as well.
5. Prebiotic for the Probiotics
Beta-glucan which is a soluble fibre is one of the sources of food for our gut microbiota. It is suitable for general probiotics in the market, making it extremely versatile in function. YourGutt Pre + Probiotics contains beta-glucan that provides a complete synbiotic effect. Perfect for boosting your immune system while improving your gut health and the gut microbiome.
Food with Beta-Glucan
Healthcare professionals recommend getting your daily beta-glucan from food sources instead of supplementation. However, traces of beta-glucan found in food may be less and inconsistent. Hence, beta-glucan extracted from food sources are the best way to go. Regardless, here is some example of a food that contain beta-glucan:
Oats, barley, wheat, rye, and sorghum grains
Brewer’s and baker’s yeast
Fruits and vegetables in general
For example, serving 1 cup of cooked barley would consist of approximately 2.5g of beta-glucan whereas 1 cup of oatmeal would consist of approximately 2.0g of beta-glucan. Note that different sources of beta-glucan may have different efficacy as it requires more studies and clinical trials to be proven effective. As of now, only beta-glucan from yeast, oat, and barley are approved by MOH Malaysia.
Bahagian Keselamatan dan Kualiti Makanan : Peraturan-peraturan Makanan 1985. (2021). Retrieved 21 May 2021, from http://fsq.moh.gov.my/v6/xs/page.php?id=72
Nutraceutical functions of beta-glucans in human nutrition. (2019). Roczniki Państwowego Zakładu Higieny, 315-324. doi: 10.32394/rpzh.2019.0082
Sima, P., Vannucci, L., & Vetvicka, V. (2018). β-glucans and cholesterol (Review). International Journal Of Molecular Medicine. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2018.3411
Vetvicka, V., Vannucci, L., Sima, P., & Richter, J. (2019). Beta Glucan: Supplement or Drug? From Laboratory to Clinical Trials. Molecules, 24(7), 1251. doi: 10.3390/molecules24071251