Beta glucan is a soluble fiber. When it dissolves inside a person’s digestive tract, it creates a thick gel, which Heart UK likens to wallpaper paste. This gel binds with excess cholesterol and helps to prevent its absorption. Beta glucan has several health benefits thanks to its role as a soluble fiber. Eating oat-based foods that are low in fat is an excellent way to incorporate beta glucan into your diet.
Beta glucan has a cholesterol-lowering effect that reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Consuming 3 grams a day of oat or barley beta glucan can help a person achieve a reduction in the “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as overall cholesterol, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While most studies have examined beta glucan from oats, the yeast-derived fiber is actually a more concentrated source. The journal "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition" reports that this form is being tested in a variety of food products.
Control Blood Sugar
Soluble fiber such as beta glucan slows the absorption of sugars from the diet, according to Heart UK, and may be useful in controlling blood sugar levels. While early studies appear promising, more scientific studies are needed to verify that beta glucan can be used to control blood sugar. Beta glucans from cereals have been shown to reduce the glycemic response to carbohydrates. The glycemic response is the carbohydrates’ blood glucose raising potential. Evidence that diets containing more foods that elicit low glycemic responses can improve metabolic control of diabetes. Thus, incorporating ingredients like beta glucans into foods may bring the result of lowered GI responses, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Reduce Blood Pressure
Beta glucans can help to reduce blood pressure, according to the AAFC publication “Oat and Barley B Glucans." A study in the June 2007 "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reports that beta-glucan is especially effective at lowering blood pressure in those that are already obese and already have high blood pressure. However, more study is needed for this use, as existing scientific evidence is not conclusive.
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Effect of Beta-Glucan From Oats and Yeast on Serum Lipids
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Oat and Barley B Glucans
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Consuming Foods Containing Oat Beta-Glucan on Blood Pressure, Carbohydrate Metabolism and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Men and Women With Elevated Blood Pressure
- Heart UK: Fact Sheet