About Beta Glucans

What are beta glucans?

Beta glucans are polysaccharides and a form of fibre found in the cell walls of baker’s yeast and some fungi, moulds, mushrooms, bacteria, algae, as well as in plant cellulose and the bran of cereal grains. Depending on the beta glucan source and particular strain the polysaccharides differ in respect to linkage, molecular mass, three-dimensional configuration, solubility and viscosity. These characteristics together with the manufacturing process are highly critical for the potential biological activity, the ability to improve the immune system function and other health benefits. Of all the known beta glucan sources, baker’s yeast, and in particular Wellmune found in ImmiFlex, is the best researched and clinically documented in terms of mode of action and proven immune health benefits.

When ingested the patented polysaccharide compound Wellmune manufactured by Biothera is transferred from the intestine to the lymphatic system through the Peyer’s patches the small intestine. Here the polysaccharides are engulfed by macrophages and released in smaller fragments activating billions of innate immune cells like neutrophils (white blood cells) for activity. The mechanism of action is well understood, backed by scientific evidence and is demonstrated our introduction video called ImmiFlex Shields You For Life.

Dysfunctional immune system

For most of human history we were daily exposure to beta glucans in the form of fungi, moulds and yeasts in our food chain, as well as microorganisms found in our relatively dirty living conditions. Over the last two centuries modern hygiene, food processing techniques and agriculture has gradually changed all that, making food sources of beta glucan scarce. As a result we now live in an over-sanitized world where auto-immune disorders are on an explosive rise. Scientists like Dr Paul Clayton point out that this sudden eradication of polysaccharides in our food chain, in particular yeasts beta glucans, have rendered our immune systems “dysfunctional”. In our introduction video “Reload Your Immunity” you can see Dr Paul Clayton explain how the lack of yeast polysaccharides in our diet has put our health at risk.

Immune modulators

Oat beta glucan with 1,3/1,4 linkage is known for its beneficial action on cholesterol- and blood glucose levels, digestion and gut microbiota (microflora). The known immune modulators on the other hand are beta glucans from fungi, mushrooms and in particular baker’s yeast with 1,3/1,6 linkage. Natural immune modulators are considered rare as only a few have been discovered. Immune modulators typically regulate an underactive or overactive immune system back to a more balanced state. Clinical evidence clearly demonstrate that Wellmune Beta Glucan from baker’s yeast in addition safely boost white blood cells, an integral part of the innate immune system, and thereby mobilizes billions of innate immune cells that are part of the body’s natural defences. Activated by Wellmune the first line of defence is primed for activity, but an immune response is only triggered when the presence of a foreign attacker has been identified.

Beta glucans also have a place in cancer immunotherapy as immunomodulators according to a PubMed publication. In cancer treatment beta glucans are typically given intravenously and work as modifiers for monoclonal antibody treatment by recruiting tumoricidal granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, as killer cells. Monoclonal antibodies are carefully engineered medicines made to mimic natural antibodies in order to bind to cancer tumours and help expose them to the immune system. Beta glucans have been shown to significantly enhance the therapeutic effect of such treatment, and may even be beneficial in recovering from chemotherapy. Immunotherapy is emerging as a leading field of research and promises to discover more effective cancer treatments for the future and is likely include the use of yeast beta glucan.

Immune system evolution

Modern science shows us that the adaptive and innate immune systems are shared across many species, indicating that elements of the immune system have remained relatively constant through evolution. Research published in the online version of the journal, Immunity, by National Jewish Health in 2011, traced parts of our adaptive immune system back to a common ancestor of mammals, amphibians and cartilaginous fish more than 400 million years ago.

The evolution of our immune system and immune health is relevant to yeast beta glucans because they work as natural and safe immune modulators, supporting innate immune function in humans, as well as fish and pets like cats and dogs. This immune boosting effect is likely to only occur because our innate immune system has developed through common ancestors over millions of years, thus preserving some traits across species, like the ability of beta 1,3/1,6 glucans to bind to and activate innate immune cells.

Research indicate that yeast beta glucan like Wellmune is the best source for biological activity and improved immunity, which only makes sense as polysaccharides from yeast is probably what we humans historically have been most exposed to. It therefore seems like nature is presenting us with millions of good reasons to take ImmiFlex on a daily basis and perhaps even share with our pets.

Beta Glucans in cosmetics and anti-aging

In studies both oat beta glucan with 1,3/1,4 linkage and yeast beta glucan with 1,3/1,6 linkage have shown anti-aging benefits when applied topically. These glucose polysaccharides are made up of long chains of d-glucose molecules and small enough to penetrate the skin. In the dermis and epidermis of the skin they interact with the immune system and in particular Langerhans cells. In cosmetics high-quality yeast beta glucans holds promise of significant anti-aging and skin repairing qualities. In the skin they support collagen deposition, which in term promotes wound healing and the integrity, elasticity and firmness of the skin. The polysaccharides also have an anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant effect and may help improve skin tone, making them well suited for people with sensitive skin. The effects from beta glucan skincare products are often reported to be smoother skin with improved complexion, wrinkle reduction and a youthful look.

One of the leading natural skincare companies, Alva Naturkosmetik GmbH from Germany, is part of the Immitec Group and have developed Europe’s first line of certified organic skincare creams and lotions with yeast beta glucan from Biothera. The cosmetic line is called alva SENSITIVE. You can find more information about it on our ImmiShop page.

As we age our immune system becomes less effective and we are more prone to infections. At the same time most of us want to look and feel younger. Beta glucans can help us achieve that. Taken orally yeast beta glucans “activate” neutrophils and macrophages, which in turn circulate the entire body including the skin. These immune cells are not only defending us against infections, they also play an important role in tissue maintenance and repair. In our anti-aging article Dr. Paul Clayton refers to beta glucans like this: “They are an essential ingredient for healthier aging”. It is therefore evident that reintroducing beta glucan to our diets together with beta glucan creams for the skin could be a powerful aid to any anti-aging strategy.

Beta glucan research

Research show that insoluble beta glucans (1,3/1,6) from yeast and medicinal mushrooms like Shiitake (AHCC) have greater biological activity than that of its soluble beta glucan (1,3/1,4) counterparts like oats. An independent university study conducted at the University of Louisville further found that Wellmune was more than twice as effective as MCG-3, AHCC, mushroom polysaccharides and Echinacea, when measuring the ability of leading immune health products to mobilize key immune responses in a preclinical model.

In 2011 a study published as the cover story in the journal Nature highlighted research on Biothera’s beta glucans and how Wellmune prime the innate immune system to protect the body. This research confirmed that not all beta glucans are alike and that size and molecular structure is critical to receptor binding (Dectin-1) and the resulting innate immune cell response. It is this type of peer-reviewed research in addition to human clinical trials following the gold standard that has brought Biothera to the forefront of beta glucan research.

When it comes to scientific documentation on the mechanism of action, safety and biological activity Wellmune Beta Glucan found in ImmiFlex is supported by unmatched clinical research. Biothera’s commitment to beta glucan research has already led to over $350 M spent on R&D, and more human studies are in the pipeline to further demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of Wellmune. In 2014 a study using ImmiFlex as method of delivery to young football athletes was also published here on ImmiFlex.com.

We at Immitec are also involved in beta glucan research through our participation in an EU study project to uncover the health benefits from taking these immune modulating agents. The €8 M European FibeBiotics research project seeks out to document the health effects of specific dietary fibres, including beta 1,3/1,6 glucans using Wellmune found in ImmiFlex. We contribute with the raw material, knowledge in the field of immune health and beta glucans, as well as sales and marketing strategies for products containing functional fibres.