Beta Glucan & Your Immunity
What is Beta Glucan?
Beta glucan is a naturally occurring polysaccharide (a long chain of glucose molecules) found in algae, yeast, fungi and certain plants like oats and barley. The complex structure of this carbohydrate prevents it from being broken down in the stomach, ensuring that the compound makes it to the digestive tract intact. Once in the small intestine, beta glucan interacts with beneficial bacteria in the gut lining before passing into the bloodstream and lymphatic where it attaches to receptors on immune cells, helping to enhance their ability to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
The algae advantage: Purity, potency and sustainability / Why structure and sourcing matter
Most beta glucan, such as the beta glucan found in oats, barley, yeast and fungi, serves as a structural component of cell walls. That means the glucose molecules are bound in specific chemical chains to provide strong foundational support. The structure of these chemical chains influence how beta glucan acts in the body. Oat-based beta glucan, for example, comes in a branched (1,3) (1,4) structure that is ideal for binding to cholesterol and removing it from the body, helping to improve heart health. The simple linear 1,3 structure present in algae and yeast has been shown to be the gold standard for immune health, because it specifically targets and activates pathogen-fighting white blood cells.
Beta glucan that makes up cell walls can be challenging to isolate for use in nutritional supplements: When extracting beta 1,3 glucan from yeast, for instance, manufacturers have to use harsh enzymatic processing to detach the beta glucan from the other components of the cell walls, which dilute the product and leave behind chemical by-products that comprise purity.
That’s why Truth Sports sought out beta 1,3 glucan derived from a unique strain of algae called Euglena gracilis when developing our Beta Glucan Immune. This marine organism contains a greater concentration of beta 1,3 glucan than any plant or cell life in nature, and it’s found free floating within cell membranes, because the algae uses the beta glucan for energy storage instead of cell wall structure. This makes it easier and more cost effective to sustainably grow and extract algae’s beta glucan at a highly concentrated dose while maintaining optimal purity.
To deliver the full-spectrum nutrition you’ve come to expect from Truth Sports, our Beta Glucan Immune keeps the whole algae extracted beta 1,3 glucan paired with the rest of the algae’s nutrient-dense plant material. The resulting formula contains greater than 50% beta 1,3 glucan, 20% protein and many bioactive vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that work to help increase the bioavailability of the beta 1,3 glucan and further support immunity and overall well-being.
Beta 1,3 Glucan and Your Immunity
Beta 1,3 Glucan has emerged as one of nature’s most potent and well-researched nutritional immune system activators with thousands of peer-reviewed articles in medical and scientific journals detailing its powerful health benefits. How it works:
1) Beta 1,3 glucan primes immune cells for action. In the body, beta 1,3 glucan passes through the small intestine into the bloodstream and lymphatic system where its linear structure allows it to bind to immune cells ranging from macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells. Essentially, beta 1,3 glucan fits into receptors on these white blood cells like a key into a lock, instantly switching them on, or “priming” them for action. These “primed” immune cells are then mobilized to work harder and faster to identify, attack and kill invading viruses and bacteria. Studies show that this “priming” effect both makes the immune system more effective at rooting out infections, reducing the incidences of sickness. And if and when infections do take hold, “primed” immune cells mount a speedier response clearing the infection, which can result in reduced severity of symptoms plus faster recovery time and healing.
Beta glucan is such a powerful immune activator that it’s currently being researched for its anti-tumor effects, because it can help enhance macrophages’ natural ability to engulf carcinogenic cell growths and eliminate them from the body.
2) Beta 1,3 glucan strengthens barrier function. The viscous intestinal lining is the one of the body’s first lines of defense against infection: It allows for the absorption of things like water and nutrients, while also acting as a barrier that keeps toxins and pathogens from reaching the bloodstream. Stress, inflammation and other factors can weaken this lining, allowing for tiny tears that create a condition called leaky gut, which makes it easier for toxins and pathogens to spread through the body, wreaking havoc. Beta 1,3 glucan is taken up by the cells that line the gut, helping to strengthen the integrity of this barrier defense.
3) Beta 1,3 glucan fosters a healthy microbiome. In the gut, beta 1,3 glucan has prebiotic effects: Beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria feed on beta 1,3 glucan’s long chains of glucose, which provides nourishing fuel that helps these good bacteria thrive and multiply. That’s good news, because these good bacteria play a crucial role in crowding out bad bacteria and yeast that can cause bloat, digestive upset and spur carb cravings.
What’s more, when beneficial bacteria feed on beta 1,3 glucan, they release short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, acetate and propionate, which have shown to have a wide range of health benefits. Research shows that butyrate in particular has anti-inflammatory effects that regulate activity of immune-boosting T-cells, while other studies have shown short chain fatty acids to have beneficial effects on metabolism, heart health and mood.
The payoff: Studies show that the immune-boosting effects of beta 1,3 glucan work in practice! In a clinical trial to investigate the benefits of beta glucan, healthy participants taking the equivalent beta 1,3 glucan found in Truth Sports’ Beta Glucan Immune daily reported:
• 3.3 fewer self-reported sick days compared to those given placebo
• 45% fewer upper respiratory tract infection episodes compared to the placebo group
• 70% fewer upper respiratory symptoms when compared to the placebo group
• 10 fewer upper respiratory tract infection symptom days compared to the placebo group
• And in those who did get sick, the global severity of the illness was 80% lower in the beta 1,3 glucan group compared to the placebo group
* Importantly, because beta glucan works by activating or modulating immune cell activity rather than stimulating the production or actions of these cells, it’s unlikely to prompt the overstimulation or overreaction of the immune system that can lead to health issues. Experts note that this makes beta glucan a safer immune supplement for those with autoimmune disorders where the immune system turns on the body’s own tissues, such as Hashitmotos, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus (*But patients should consult their health care provider before taking a new supplement.) It’s also good news in the fight against Covid-19: Beta glucan helps prime the immune system to fight off the virus. But should an infection take root, beta glucan won’t contribute to and may actually help prevent the “cytokine storm” that can cause complications in Covid-19 patients.
Additional Health Benefits of Beta Glucan
Powering up your immune system is just one way supplementing with beta glucan can help keep you healthy. This complex plant compound also has prebiotic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that work to protect the heart, improve mood and more. A few more benefits you may enjoy:
Lower cholesterol. Beta glucan’s long chain of glucose molecules work like a broom in the bloodstream, sweeping up cholesterol and tagging them for removal from the body. In one study, a daily dose of beta glucan was associated with 5% reduction in total cholesterol and 7% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol over 8 weeks.
Balanced blood sugar. Nutritionally, beta glucan can help slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream to keep blood sugar and insulin levels steady. Once in the gut, beneficial bacteria feed on beta glucan and release short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. These anti-inflammatory compounds work to improve the sensitivity of cells’ insulin receptors—a key factor in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Weight management. A review in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that beta glucan shows promise for helping to control weight and prevent or treat metabolic syndrome through multiple pathways. As a prebiotic, beta glucan promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria (which release chemicals shown to speed up metabolism, dial down fat storage and balance blood sugar) and decreases the population of bad bacteria (which spur cravings and drive up inflammation). Beta glucan’s anti-inflammatory effects can also help to calm the systemic cellular inflammation that promotes fat storage.
Sunnier moods. An estimated 90% of the body’s serotonin is manufactured in the gut, and beta glucan works to optimize production of this mood-boosting brain chemical. How? As a prebiotic, beta glucan helps the probiotics that make serotonin thrive and multiply, while also stimulating the release of short-chain fatty acids that spur the release of serotonin in the brain.