Mechanisms of action of beta-glucan in postprandial glucose metabolism in healthy men

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 May;55(5):327-33. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601160.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Fermentation
  • Glucans / administration & dosage
  • Glucans / pharmacology*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Postprandial Period


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Glucans
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Glucose