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Beta Glucan - What is Beta-1, 3-D glucan?
Last Updated: 02/11/2012

Beta glucan is a complex carbohydrate or biopolymer of glucose, a simple sugar. Beta-1, 3-D glucan is the sole active ingredient in Beta Glucan. It is derived from the cell walls of baker's yeast, making it the precise substance for which the actual glucan macrophage receptor has been identified. Beta-1, 3-D glucan is technically referred to as a polybranched polyglucose - so complex some refer to it as fiber.

“Glucans are (1-3)-beta-D-linked polymers of glucose that are produced as fungal cell wall constituents and are also released into the extracellular milieu.” The influence of glucan polymer structure and solution conformation on binding to (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan receptors in a human monocyte-like cell line. Mueller A, Raptis J, Rice PJ, Kalbfleisch JH, Stout RD, Ensley HE, Browder W, Williams DL. Department of Surgery, James H. Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614-0575, USA.

Here is how some other studies describe the material:

    1. The polysaccharide beta (1,3)-D-glucan is a component of the cell wall of many fungi. Synthesis of the linear polymer is catalyzed by UDP-glucose beta (1,3)-D-glucan beta (3)-D-glucosyltransferase.

    2. An insoluble extract of yeast, composition comprising insoluble yeast extracts

    3. Glucan--a beta 1,3 polyglucose

    4. The polysaccharide (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan

    5. Polymeric carbohydrates have been reported to modulate inflammatory responses in vitro and in vivo. Previous reports suggest that certain carbohydrate polymers, such as (1-->3)-beta-D-glucans

    6. A beta-1, 3-linked polyglucose

    7. Particulate glucan -v- soluble glucan

    8. A beta-1, 3-linked glucopyranose

    9. (Poly-1-6-ß-D-glucopyranosyl)-(1-3- ß-D-glucopyranose)

    10. PSK (Krestin)

    11. Curdlan

    12. Lentinan

    13. Betafectin

    14. PGG glucan

It is derived from several sources, including yeast, bacteria, fungi and cereals, such as oats, barley and rye. Each type of beta glucan has a unique structure in which glucose is linked together in different ways, giving them physical properties.

For example, beta 1,3 glucan derived from bacteria and algae is linear, making it useful as a food thickener. Yeast beta glucan is branched with ß1, 6 and ß1, 3 glucans, enhancing its ability to bind and stimulate macrophages. The chemical structure of beta 1,3- glucan is dependent on the source and, based on extensive published research, it is widely accepted that the beta 1,3-glucan purified from baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is the most potent anti-infective beta-glucan immunomodulator. Yeast-derived beta 1,3-glucans work, in part, by stimulating the innate anti-fungal immune mechanisms to fight a range of foreign challenges.

Deriving Yeast Beta Glucan

Extracting Beta 1,3 glucan from Baker's yeast, also known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, involves stripping away various layers of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other materials that make up a yeast cell. This process is critical because some of these impurities comprising the outermost layer, have been shown to induce undesirable side effects and interfere with the recognition of the active molecule 1,3/1,6 glucan.

Components of Yeast Beta 1,3 Glucan

Following purification, what remains is a whole glucan particle (WGP), the skeletal sphere that once provided structure to the cell. WGPs can be further broken down into various components, each with differing affinities for binding to subsets of beta glucan receptors on the macrophage cell surface. This differential binding to the macrophage cell surface is responsible for activating a specific response by the immune system.

The forms of beta 1,3 glucan include:

  • Triple helical multimer, which, like the cables of a suspension bridge, provides structure and support to the cell wall
  • Triple helix is akin to a strand of the beta glucan suspension cable
  • Single helix is a fraction of the triple helix strand
  • Random coil is the smallest component of beta glucan.

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