β Glucan; C033363; β-1,3-Glucan; Yeast1,3/1,6BetaGlucan90%; 1,3-BETA-D-GLUCAN
β-Glucans (beta-glucans) comprise a group of β-D-glucose polysaccharides naturally occurring in the cell walls of cereals, bacteria, and fungi, with significantly differing physicochemical properties dependent on source. Typically, β-glucans form a linear backbone with 1-3 β-glycosidic bonds but vary with respect to molecular mass, solubility, viscosity, branching structure, and gelation properties, causing diverse physiological effects in animals.
At dietary intake levels of at least 3 g per day, oat fiber β-glucan decreases blood levels of LDL cholesterol and so may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. β-glucans are used as texturing agents in various nutraceutical and cosmetic products, and as soluble fiber supplements, but can be problematic in the process of brewing.
β-glucans form a natural component of the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeast, and cereals such as oat and barley. Each type of beta-glucan comprises a different molecular backbone, level of branching, and molecular weight which affects its solubility and physiological impact. One of the most common sources of β(1,3)D-glucan for supplement use is derived from the cell wall of baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). β-glucans found in the cell walls of yeast contain a 1,3 carbon backbone with elongated 1,6 carbon branches. Other sources include seaweed, and various mushrooms, such as reishi, shiitake, chaga, and maitake, which are under preliminary research for their potential immune effects.
Main article: Dietary fiber
In the diet, β-glucans are a source of soluble, fermentable fiber – also called prebiotic fiber – which provides a substrate for microbiota within the large intestine, increasing fecal bulk and producing short-chain fatty acids as byproducts with wide-ranging physiological activities. This fermentation impacts the expression of many genes within the large intestine, which further affects digestive function and cholesterol and glucose metabolism, as well as the immune system and other systemic functions.
Oatmeal is a common food source of β-glucans
Main article: Oat beta-glucan
Cereal β-glucans from oat, barley, wheat, and rye have been studied for their effects on cholesterol levels in people with normal cholesterol levels and in those with hypercholesterolemia. Intake of oat β-glucan at daily amounts of at least 3 grams lowers total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels by 5 to 10% in people with normal or elevated blood cholesterol levels.
Oats and barley differ in the ratio of trimer and tetramer 1-4 linkages. Barley has more 1-4 linkages with a degree of polymerization higher than 4. However, the majority of barley blocks remain trimers and tetramers. In oats, β-glucan is found mainly in the endosperm of the oat kernel, especially in the outer layers of that endosperm.
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