Beta Glycans

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Beta-1,3-glucan, beta-1,3/1,6-glycan

COMMON NAME(S): Beta glycans, beta glucans

Beta Glucans are carbohydrates that can be found in foods, such as mushrooms, oats, barley, and yeast. They are taken as an herbal medicine to prevent and treat cancer, lower cholesterol, treat HIV and diabetes, and to increase immune system function.


Beta-1,3/1,6-gIycan has been studied for more than 30 years. It has immune system stimulant properties. In the 1980s, beta glycans were used to make salmon more disease resistant.

Uses of Beta Glycans

Although few studies in humans are available (and are primarily in HIV patients), beta glycans are sold as supplements to boost the immune system and have also been studied in animals for their antitumor actions.

Side Effects of Beta Glycans

The FDA classifies baker's yeast beta-1,3/1,6-glycan as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), but reports show beta glycans may potentiate airway allergic responses and worsen symptoms in patients with existing disease.


Talk with your caregiver about how much Beta Glucans you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking Beta Glucans. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.


Baker's yeast beta-1,3/ 1,6-glycan has a "GRAS" rating by the FDA, meaning "generally recognized as safe".A report on Norwegian beta glycans noted that if a patient with an existing disease takes beta glycans, symptoms may actually worsen for a couple of days. In a clinical trial testing beta glycans use in AIDS patients, side effects severe enough to be reported to the FDA were anaphylactoid reaction, back pain, leg pain, depression, rigor, fever, chills, granulocytopenia, and elevated liver enzymes (1 case each); 4 of 98 patients discontinued therapy because of side effects. Beta glycans may potentiate airway allergic responses.

A preclinical safety evaluation of soluble glycan in mice, rats, guinea pigs, and rabbits is available. Data from this report indicate that "administration of soluble glycan over a wide dose range does not induce mortality or significant toxicity.

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