Effects of Yeast (1,3)-(1,6)-Beta-Glucan on Severity of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study in Healthy Subjects

J Am Coll Nutr. 2019 Jan;38(1):40-50. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2018.1478339. Epub 2018 Sep 10.


Objectives: Each year, adults suffer about two to four upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), mostly in winter. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effects of brewers' yeast (1,3)-(1,6)-beta-glucan on incidence and severity of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).

Methods: Generally healthy men and women (n = 299) reporting at least three URTIs during the previous year were randomized to receive either a placebo or 900 mg of yeast beta-glucan daily for 16 weeks during winter. In cases of acute URTI, the severity of URTI symptoms was assessed via the WURSS-21 questionnaire and the Jackson scale, and a clinical confirmation was implemented by the investigator.

Results: Overall, 70 subjects under placebo and 71 subjects under yeast beta-glucan experienced at least one clinically confirmed URTI episode. The global severity using WURSS-21 had been quite similar between the study groups (p = 0.5267), whereas during the first days of URTIs the severity was less pronounced in the yeast beta-glucan group. On the episode level, the severity of physical symptoms was significantly lower for all investigated time intervals up to 7 days under yeast beta-glucan (WURSS (Q2-11) (days 1-2: p = 0.0465, days 1-3: p = 0.0323, days 1-4: p = 0.0248, days 1-7: p = 0.0278), also confirmed for the Jackson scale). The reduction of severity was accompanied by a significant increase in the joy subscore of the Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ20) (p = 0.0148). In addition, there was a reduction of systolic (p = 0.0458) and diastolic (p = 0.1439) blood pressure.

Conclusion: Subjects supplementing with yeast beta-glucan benefit by a reduced severity of physical URTI symptoms during the first week of an episode, even though the incidence and global severity of common colds could not be altered in comparison to placebo. Furthermore, accompanying benefits in terms of blood pressure and mood were identified. Altogether, yeast beta-glucan supports the immune function.

Keywords: Dietary supplements; URTI; beta-glucan; upper respiratory tract infection; yeast.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Yeast, Dried*
  • Young Adult
  • beta-Glucans / administration & dosage*


  • beta-Glucans