Meta-analysis of the effect of β-glucan intake on blood cholesterol and glucose levels

Nutrition. 2011 Oct;27(10):1008-16. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.11.006. Epub 2011 Apr 6.


Objective: A meta-analysis was performed on epidemiologic studies to assess the relation between β-glucan consumption from oats and from barley on blood cholesterol level, triglyceride/triacylglycerol (TGL/TAG) level, and blood glucose level (BGL) in humans. In addition, the effect of β-glucan on total cholesterol (TC) and BGL was translated into an empirical dose-response model.

Methods: Thirty research articles that evaluated the effect of different exposure levels of β-glucan on blood cholesterol and BGL were analyzed, yielding 126 clinical studies.

Results: There was a significant inverse relation in TC (-0.60 mmol/L, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.85 to -0.34), low-density lipoprotein (-0.66 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.96 to -0.36), and TGL/TAG (-0.04 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.15 to 0.07) after consumption of β-glucan. In contrast, an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was noted (0.03 mmol/L, 95% CI -0.06 to 0.13) with the random-effect model. The analysis showed a significant change in BGL (-2.58 mmol/L, 95% CI -3.22 to -1.84) with high heterogeneity between (I(2) = 97%) and across (τ(2) = 5.88) the studies. The fixed-effect model showed a significant change in TC, low-density lipoprotein, and BGL, whereas it showed no significant changes in high-density lipoprotein and TGL/TAG. The dose-response model showed that a 3-g/d dose of oat or barley β-glucan was sufficient to decrease TC.

Conclusion: Consumption of 3 g/d of oat or barley β-glucan is sufficient to decrease blood cholesterol, whereas the effect on BGL is still inconclusive, with high heterogeneity, and requires further clinical research studies with longer intervention periods.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Avena / chemistry*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hordeum / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Triglycerides / blood*
  • beta-Glucans / pharmacology*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Plant Extracts
  • Triglycerides
  • beta-Glucans
  • Cholesterol