The biological response modifier and complex sugar known as beta glucan has been the focus of increased research interest in recent years, due to its ability to activate and change the activity of immune system cells. Beta Glucan absorbs into the body through the stomach, and once in the bloodstream, it is taken up by dendritic immune cells and macrophages. These cells recognize this sugar as a “non-self” compound, and take it up for consumption, with the result that this polysaccharide can modulate the immune response, and even induce therapeutic effects by activating these cells, and inducing them to consume other foreign particulates. Immune cells that have been shown to be activated by this complex sugar include natural killer (NK) cells, B-cells, T-cells, and macrophages, and can also promote the activation of cytokines through these cells.
Beta-1, 3D Glucan
Beta glucan is actually the simplified term for the poly-branched B-1,3-(D)-glucan sugar, which, in some cases, may have a side chain of B-1,6-(D)-glucose, although the presence of these side chains are not strictly necessary to cause the activation of immune cells. This molecule occurs naturally, and is an important component in the cell walls and membranes of fungi, bacteria, and even plants. Macrophages and dendritic cells actually have glucan receptors that recognize this sugar, and create an immune response; this makes sense when considering that these cells normally hunt down organisms that contain this sugar in their outer membranes. When combined with the side chain,this polysaccharide as it is found in baker’s yeast is capable of activating immune cells in a non-specific fashion, allowing cells to actively pursue foreign bodies.
Since beta glucan has been of interest to researchers for decades, there is a rapidly expanding body of literature on this molecule, and even patent literature by investigators seeking to harness its power. In light of its immune system role, this sugar has been shown to induce the immune system to attack bad cells and prevent their metastasis, reduce damage that could be caused by radiation exposure and septic shock, and even help to prevent infections from spreading in the body. Other exciting information about this polysaccharide includes that its consumption could play a role in regulating a proper body weight. There is a definite cause and effect relationship established between this complex sugar and regulating blood cholesterol levels, which, in turn, could help maintain a proper body weight.