Nutraceutical functions of beta-glucans in human nutrition

Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2019;70(4):315-324. doi: 10.32394/rpzh.2019.0082.


Recent studies have shown that naturally occurring substances found in the food of the daily human diet are important for preventing chronic non-communicable diseases. One of them is beta-glucan, which is a natural polysaccharide, occurring in plant cell walls, mainly oats, barley and wheat. It is also present in baker’s yeast cells, fungal cell walls, and some microorganisms. Beta-glucan belongs to one of the dietary fiber fractions, which are attributed a number of beneficial health properties, including the prevention and treatment of certain digestive diseases and supporting the immune system. This compound has biological activity that depends on the size, molecular weight, conformation, frequency of bonds, solubility and changes in structure. Beta-glucan reduces cholesterol and glucose concentrations in the blood, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In addition to its effects on lipid levels and glucose metabolism, beta-glucan also exhibits antioxidant properties by scavenging reactive oxygen species, thereby reducing the risk of diseases, including atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and cancer. Immunostimulatory and antitumor effects have also been reported. The immunostimulatory activity of beta-glucan occurs as a result of its attachment to specific receptors present on the immune cell surface. Beta-glucan belongs to the group of prebiotics which stimulate the growth and activity of the desired natural intestinal microbiota, while inhibiting the growth of pathogens. It plays an important role in the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and preventing inflammation as well as colon cancer. Such a number of health benefits resulting from the properties of beta-glucan may play a key role in improving health and preventing chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Dietary Fiber / therapeutic use*
  • Heart Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • beta-Glucans / therapeutic use*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Insulin
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • beta-Glucans