Effects of yeast β-glucans for the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infection in healthy subjects: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Nutr. 2021 Dec;60(8):4175-4187. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02566-4. Epub 2021 Apr 26.


Purpose: Yeast β-glucans are known for their immune-modulating effects; however, their effects on human upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) remain unclear. The aim of the present study was to use a systematic review and meta-analysis approach to investigate the effects of yeast β-glucans for the prevention and treatment of URTIs in healthy subjects.

Methods: Databases including Pubmed, Web of Science, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library were searched and 13 RCTs investigating the effects of yeast β-glucans on the incidence, duration, and severity of URTIs in healthy subjects were included.

Results: The results showed that compared to the placebo group, yeast β-glucan could significantly reduce the incidence of URTIs (OR = 0.345, 95% CI = 0.192 to 0.620, p < 0.001), decrease the average number of URTI episodes (SMD = - 0.315, 95% CI = - 0.500 to - 0.130, p < 0.05), and decrease the duration of URTIs (SMD = - 0.312, 95% CI = - 0.561 to - 0.064, p < 0.001). Improved severity of symptoms was found in yeast β-glucan group compared to the placebo group in the majority of included studies. In addition, yeast β-glucan was well tolerated and safe in general.

Conclusion: These findings suggest a positive effect of yeast β-glucans on human URTIs. However, due to the high heterogeneity and small number of included studies, more high-quality research and clinical trials are warranted.

Keywords: Healthy subjects; Meta-analysis; Systematic review; Upper respiratory tract infection; Yeast β-glucan.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / prevention & control
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • beta-Glucans*


  • beta-Glucans