Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber found in the cells of certain types of bacteria, yeast, fungi, and algae. Some plants also contain beta-glucans.
This fiber is widely explored for its strong health potential. Scientists focus on its immune-boosting effects in particular.
The latest study revealed that beta-glucan could enhance the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
Learn more about this study and other useful info about beta glucan and covid below.
Study finds beta-glucan may be an adjuvant for COVID-19 vaccines
About the study
A team of scientists from the Valladolid University in Spain carried out the study whose main objective was to explore the potential effect of beta-glucans as adjuvants in the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19.
Novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a highly contagious virus that may cause upper respiratory tract infection and a wide range of potentially severe problems. As you’re already aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in many ways and also contributed to the deaths of millions of people.
Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine, people have the opportunity to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. This is similar to vaccines for other respiratory infections such as flu.
They conducted this study because vaccines could be administered with adjuvants that contain immunomodulating properties. These complementary compounds can improve immune response and improve the protective effects of vaccines, especially in immunocompromised persons such as the elderly population.
Various compounds and substances can be considered adjuvants, which is why the scientists wanted to find out whether beta-glucans could be among them.
To get their answers, scientists reviewed available studies and papers that explored beta-glucans and their impact on the immune response and immune function.
What the study found
The December 2021 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published the results of this study. The review confirmed that beta-glucans exhibit immunomodulatory effects on both innate and adaptive or trained immunity.
The mechanism of action is quite simple. Upon oral administration, the intestine absorbs beta-glucans, and intestinal macrophages recognize the fiber and degrade it into smaller polysaccharides. Then, these compounds are transported and released into the body.
Several receptors in the body recognize beta-glucans and their affinity for these receptors depends on factors such as molecular weight. When beta-glucans bind to these receptors, they can cause immune enhancement.
The study confirms that beta-glucans have strong adjuvant action. For that reason, studies that explored the adjuvant activity of beta-glucans on vaccination were first carried out back in the 1990s. The fibers work by inducing a tripartite motif (TRIM) phenotype. A tripartite motif is a family of proteins involved in the innate immune system.
The review shows beta-glucans have the potential to produce long-lasting TRIM against a multitude of pathogens. Not only that, but these soluble fibers exhibit synergistic or additive effects with a wide range of agents.
For that reason, beta-glucans can activate the immune system’s humoral and cellular components. At the same time, beta-glucans increase the antimicrobial action of cells involved in the immune defenses.
Once exposed to beta-glucans, cells of the innate immunity become active, which is followed by increased production of cytokines and alterations in metabolic functioning. In cases when these cells are “challenged” by pathogens, they can produce a more powerful immune response.
Scientists concluded the review by explaining that orally-administered beta-glucans are effective adjuvants that support cellular patterns involved in the infectious process while lowering the inflammatory cytokines caused by COVID-19.
More precisely, the study confirmed that beta-glucans could help COVID-19 vaccines work better. As they enhance immune response, beta-glucans could allow vaccines to provide greater protection.
A lot more research on this subject is necessary. It’s also important to learn whether beta-glucans could enhance the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against new strains, which tend to be more infective.
Study finds beta-glucan could decrease the likelihood of severe COVID-19
When it comes to SARS Cov 2 infection, a study from Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy found that two strains of beta-glucans could help control biomarkers of clinical severity of this disease.
For their study, scientists recruited 24 RT-PCR positive COVID-19 patients who were randomly divided into three groups. One was the control group, whereas the second and third groups received AFO-202 (Aureobasidium pullulans) strain alone or in combination with the N-163 strain. Participants from all three groups received standard care, but the second and third groups also got beta-glucans supplementation for 30 days.
Many parameters remained similar among the groups. However, supplementation with beta-glucans strains was linked to significant control of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Beta-glucans were also associated with immunomodulatory potential.
In other words, this small pilot study revealed beta-glucans could reduce the severity of COVID-19 viral infection. These findings are particularly useful because many patients are at risk of more severe clinical coronavirus disease outcomes due to comorbidities such as chronic diseases.
This could also make beta-glucans effective against cytokine storms. You see, cytokine storm is a life-threatening systemic inflammatory syndrome characterized by increased levels of circulating cytokines and hyperactivation of immune cells.
Various factors could trigger cytokine storms, including autoimmune conditions, cancers, and even COVID-19 infection, because they induce strong inflammation. Of course, the benefits of beta-glucans on patient health calls for further research.
How to get beta-glucan in your diet
Beta-glucans could take the immune system defenses to a whole new level and improve protection against virus infection. For that reason, it may be useful to consider introducing them to your diet.
You can find this healthy fiber in these foods:
- Nutritional yeast
- Reishi mushrooms
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Whole-wheat bread
- Rye bread
The best food sources of beta-glucans are grains such as barley and oats. They’re also the easiest to add to your diet. For example, oats prove to be a great breakfast food.
For many people, the most practical way to obtain beta-glucans is the intake of beta glucan supplements.
If you decide to take dietary supplements, choose the brands wisely. Always go for high-quality manufacturers and adhere to the dosage instructions they provide.
Other health benefits of beta-glucan
- Better heart health – consumption of beta-glucans can reduce the risk of heart disease. The heart-healthy benefits of beta-glucans result from their potential to decrease levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol levels are risk factors for heart disease.
- Blood glucose control – beta-glucans could improve the management of blood glucose levels, especially after eating. Some studies show these fibers could also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Although beta-glucan is a soluble fiber, it’s not digested. That’s why it slows food transit in your intestine and takes cholesterol with itself as it goes through the digestive tract.
Beta-glucans could also help with allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. A lot more clinical trials are necessary to uncover all the benefits of beta-glucans and underlying mechanisms of action.
Beta-glucan could enhance the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, according to the latest review of evidence. They promote immune defenses through several mechanisms.
A different study also confirmed beta-glucan could decrease the likelihood of severe COVID-19. These fibers have other health benefits too. You can obtain beta-glucans through certain foods or dietary supplements. Oats are particularly high in beta-glucans. The studies mentioned in this post further confirm the importance of a fiber-rich diet. Fiber is necessary for a strong gut microbiome, which is also crucial for immune function.
Find out about Our Immune System Supplement: Beta Glucan.