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Everything supplement & food producers need to know about beta glucan

What is beta glucan

How much more would supplement and food producers sell if the labels on their products included the following benefits:

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Reduces the risk of cancer
  • Boosts immunity
  • Increases heart health
  • Regulates blood sugar

Regardless of their health, most customers would find these benefits attractive and worth spending money on.

So, how can you add these benefits to your products? What’s the magic ingredient?

While there’s still some uncertainty around the benefits, beta glucan might provide that magic ingredient.

So, what is beta glucan, and what should both food producers know about it? And can beta glucan really deliver the benefits mentioned earlier?

We explore the answers to each of those questions (and more) in the paragraphs below.

Let’s get into it.

What is beta glucan & how does it work?

Beta glucan is a naturally occurring fiber found in plants such as oats, rice, wheat, barley, and rye, along with several bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and algae (including seaweed). And while they appear naturally in certain foods, beta-glucans also appear on the market in supplement forms ranging from powders to capsules.

Because beta glucan is a soluble fiber, the human body cannot digest it. And while this might sound like a drawback, this specific trait gives beta-glucan its potential health benefits.

Since your body cannot digest beta glucan, it slows the movement of food through the intestines. This allows the body to absorb carbohydrates at a slower rate, which helps regulate blood sugar and potentially remove cholesterol along the way.

Potential benefits of beta glucan for consumers

Although beta glucan still needs further studying, early studies suggest a variety of potential benefits to human health.

These possible benefits of beta-glucan include:

Bolstering the immune system: While more evidence is needed to verify this claim, some early studies suggest that beta-glucan might support immune health by activating immune cells and protecting the body against infection. In certain cases, researchers found that beta glucan reduces markers used to measure inflammation.

Lowering cholesterol while increasing heart health: Studies have also revealed that beta-glucans derived from yeast can help lower cholesterol, including LDL ("bad") cholesterol. At the same time, beta glucan does not seem to suppress HDL ("good") cholesterol and triglycerides. In the end, the effects of beta glucan on cholesterol help increase heart health.

Indirectly assisting with weight loss: By increasing the time it takes for your body to digest food, beta glucan keeps you full for longer, suppressing the appetite. By suppressing the appetite, beta glucan makes it easier to reduce caloric intake and lose weight.

Regulating blood sugar: Although more research is required, several studies found that beta glucan might help individuals with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels. It seems beta glucan works especially well to this end when combined with other treatments and dietary modifications.

Can potentially help extend life in cancer patients: While more research is needed, beta-glucans might help certain cancer patients live longer. One study, in particular, showed that combining a beta-glucan called lentinan with chemotherapy can help gastric cancer patients extend their lives.

So, how much beta glucan is safe to consume?

Both researchers and government agencies have yet to establish a standard dose for beta-glucan, which means that serving size recommendations differ depending on the source and brand.

Most studies so far use servings of beta glucan ranging from two to six grams taken orally for up to twelve weeks on a daily basis. Usually, the beta glucan used in these studies comes specifically from oats.

When using beta glucan derived from yeast, researchers have utilized doses that range from 250 and 500 milligrams once a day for up to twelve weeks. Based on the research so far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that three grams of beta glucan consumed each day is the amount necessary to help lower cholesterol.

Again, many of the claims about beta-glucans still require more research to verify with confidence. However, that hasn’t stopped food producers from using beta glucan in their products and touting its potential benefits—verified or not.

So, what risks do brands face when using beta glucan in supplements and foods?

Understanding the risks food & supplement producers face with beta glucan

If food producers plan on adding beta glucan of any kind to their products, they need to know the risks involved.

Here’s what to watch out for:

Potentially risky for certain individuals with health conditions: While some studies show that AIDS patients benefit from using certain beta-glucans, other studies indicate that beta glucan might also put AIDS patients at risk. Again, while early research considers beta glucan generally safe, many sources recommend that individuals avoid taking beta-glucans if they use certain drugs that suppress the immune system or modulate blood pressure.

Side effects when taken in excess: While considered safe under most general circumstances, beta glucan can cause bloating, flatulence, and gas if taken beyond the recommended serving amount. To keep customers from having a bad experience with their products, food and supplement producers need to ensure serving sizes are abundantly clear and accurate when listed on labels.

Making misleading claims: Although many of the early claims around beta glucan sound promising, food and supplement producers need to proceed with caution when making claims about the health effects of beta glucan. Because more research is necessary, brands should take extra caution with how they portray beta glucan to consumers.

Reporting incorrect amounts on labels: The right amount of beta glucan —around two to six grams— can potentially help support a consumer’s health. Any more than that, and you might run into problems like gas and bloating.

For this reason, supplement and food producers want to ensure they report and label accurate amounts of beta glucan in their products. That’s where third-party testing can help

And when it comes to third-party testing, Medallion Labs makes the process quick, affordable, and easy.

Quick, accurate, affordable testing for foods & supplements containing beta glucan

When it comes to finding out exactly how much beta glucan a food product or supplement contains, Medallion Labs offers a solution.

Testing options through Medallion Labs help food and supplement producers maximize testing budgets and receive results quickly.

While researchers still have more to learn about beta glucan, food and supplement producers know for a fact that customers want products containing this amazing compound. Medallion Labs can help supplement and food producers capitalize on this opportunity.

To discover how we can help you test for beta glucan and get your products safely on the shelves and into the carts of willing customers, contact us online or call us at 1-800-245-5615.