Cereal β-glucans are dietary fibres primarily found in oats and barley, and have several positive effects on health, including lowering the postprandial glucose response and the improvement of blood cholesterol levels. Cereal β-glucans have a specific combination of β-(1→4) and β-(1→3) linkages into linear long-chain polysaccharides of high molecular weight. Due to their particular structure, cereal β-glucans generate viscosity within the intestinal tract, which is thought to be the main mechanism of action responsible for their positive health effects. However, cereal grains are rarely consumed raw; at least one cooking step is generally required before they can be safely eaten. Cooking and processing methods more generally will modify the physicochemical characteristics of β-glucans, such as molecular weight, extractability and the resulting viscosity. Therefore, the health impact of β-glucans will depend not only on the dose administered, but also on the ways they are processed or converted into food products. This review aims at summarizing the different parameters that can affect β-glucans efficacy to improve glucose and lipid metabolism in humans.
Keywords: fibres; glucose; lipids; processing; viscosity; β-glucans.