Objective: To assess whether beta-glucan (which is fermented in the colon) lowers postprandial glucose concentrations through mechanisms distinct from a delayed carbohydrate absorption and inhibits de novo lipogenesis.
Design: Administration of frequent small meals each hour over 9 h allows a rate of intestinal absorption to be reached which is independent of a delayed absorption. A group of 10 healthy men received either an isoenergetic diet containing 8.9 g/day beta-glucan or without beta-glucan for 3 days. On the third day, the diet was administered as fractioned meals ingested every hour for 9 h.
Setting: Laboratory for human metabolic investigations.
Subjects: Ten healthy male volunteers.
Main outcome measures: Plasma glucose and insulin concentrations, glucose kinetics, glucose oxidation, de novo lipogenesis.
Results: On the third day, plasma glucose and free fatty acid concentrations, carbohydrate and lipid oxidation, and energy expenditure were identical with beta-glucan and cellulose. Plasma insulin concentrations were, however, 26% lower with beta-glucan during the last 2 h of the 9 h meal ingestion. Glucose rate of appearance at steady state was 12% lower with beta-glucan. This corresponded to a 21% reduction in the systemic appearance rate of exogenous carbohydrate with beta-glucan, while endogenous glucose production was similar with both diets. De novo lipogenesis was similar with and without beta-glucan.
Conclusion: Administration of frequent meals with or without beta-glucan results in similar carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. This suggests that the lowered postprandial glucose concentrations which are observed after ingestion of a single meal containing beta-glucan are essentially due to a delayed and somewhat reduced carbohydrate absorption from the gut and do not result from the effects of fermentation products in the colon.