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Beta Glucans

Beta 1,3/1,6 Glucans stimulate the innate immune system - the body's first line of defence against infection.

With increasing resistance to antibiotics, and the emergence of vaccine-resistant organisms (such as flu), the need to activate and support the innate immune system has become increasingly recognised.

What are Beta 1,3/1,6 Glucans?

Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans are naturally occurring complex sugars obtained from yeasts and fungi. Supplementation with beta 1,3/1,6 glucans helps to maintain a healthy immune system. The immunostimulating effect of extracts of particular mushroom species has been known for several thousand years in the traditional medicine of China and Japan.

The chemical structure and effects within the human body of beta glucans vary according to their source. Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans obtained from yeast should not be confused with the type of glucans (beta 1,3/1,4 glucans) obtained from cereals such as oats and wheat, which have a different molecular structure and different actions within the body. The main dietary benefit from beta 1,3/1,4 glucans is a reduction in blood cholesterol levels.

What do Beta 1,3/1,6 Glucans do?

Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans act as a primer of the innate immune system.

The immune system is comprised of two parts, namely innate immunity and acquired immunity. As the name indicates, the innate immune system is inborn, and serves as the body?s first line of defence against infectious organisms.

Acquired immunity, with which many people will be more familiar, involves the development of antibodies (either by exposure to infection or via immunisation) to foreign organisms, as a second line of defence against infection.

The importance of the innate immune system is highlighted by the fact that many (particularly less developed) species are unable to develop antibodies via acquired immunity, yet are still able to withstand exposure to infectious organisms. Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans provide a stimulus to activate neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer (NK) cells of the innate immune system against infectious organisms.

It is thought that in the ultra-clean modern environment in which most people live in industrialised societies, there is insufficient exposure to the microbial products that in the past would have acted to provide natural stimulation of the innate immune system. The importance of the latter has been highlighted in research by Dr Paul Clayton, which demonstrated the high level of exposure to beta glucans in the Victorian diet and environment, and the health benefits that this subsequently conferred on their immune function.

Because of the widespread problems of resistance to antibiotics, and the development of vaccine resistant genetically variable organisms such as those responsible for avian flu, the importance of the innate immune system (and potential methods for its activation) have been increasingly recognised.

Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans may particularly benefit individuals whose immune system has been weakened through lifestyle, stress, or aging. Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans help to maintain the body?s immune defence against infection by Candida species.

How much Beta 1,3/1,6 Glucans should you take?

The recommended dose is 200mg/day of beta 1,3/1,6 glucans.

Are there adverse effects from taking Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans?

No significant adverse effects have been reported from clinical trial studies using beta 1,3/1,6 glucans.

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