The importance of dietary fiber as part of a balanced diet for human health is widely recognized. The β-glucans are a type of soluble fiber for which effects on glycemia, insulinemia levels, cholesterol, and immunity have been proposed.
What is yeast beta glucan?
Yeast-derived beta glucans usually originate in either baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast. Even though both are beta 1,3/1,6 glucan from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the source matters—the beta glucans extracted from the cell walls of baker’s yeast have a different molecular pattern from that of brewer’s yeast, which can influence the immune-modulating abilities of the final product. Research supports the immune-modulating properties of baker’s yeast beta glucan—but not all strains are the same.
Physico-chemical characteristics of yeast beta glucan
Yeast beta-glucan is a long chain of polysaccharides. It contains the main chain of β-1,3-glucan and branched-chain of β-1,6-glucan, the molecular weight is around 500-1000KD.
The benefit of the yeast beta glucan
The primary function of yeast beta-glucan is the modulation of the immune system. Such effect is due to the β-glucans’ ability to stimulate receptors of the innate immune system present in the membrane of enterocytes, M cells, and dendritic cells, enhancing macrophages’ phagocytic activity antimicrobial activity of mononuclear cells and neutrophils.
Yeast ß-glucans would also prevent the promotion and progression of certain types of cancer, acting synergistically with monoclonal antibodies and chemotherapy. This stimulation of immunity would be achieved by increasing the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines.
Safety of using yeast beta glucan
Only one acute and sub-chronic toxicity study of β-glucans from yeast (WGP) has been developed in rats. The results show the absence of negative effects on animal weight and the incidence of Morbi mortality after administering 2 g/kg body weight of β-glucans for 14 days.
Its safety has been recognized as Generally Recognized as Safe (“GRAS” product) by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2007, considering that Saccharomyces cerevisiae is naturally present in the human diet (in particular for the baking process) from the first year of life.
The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) mentions that acute, sub-chronic, and chronic toxicity data are limited in humans. But this is not a cause for concern because consumption of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is common through bakery and craft beer products and does not represent a major allergy risk. Considering this background and similar to the FDA, EFSA concluded that the consumption of β-glucans from yeast is safe for humans.
Uses of yeast beta glucan in the food industry and legal regulations
Yeast β-glucans, the safety claim issued by the FDA and EFSA, allows them to add to various foods, including beverages intended for the general population.
What’s the dosage recommended for taking yeast beta glucan?
Biothera company has incorporated its β-glucans from yeast (Wellmune®) into baked goods, juices, cereals, dairy, plant derivatives, and soups at concentrations of approximately 200 mg per serving for consumption; it also markets it as a dietary supplement.