Beta-glucans can reduce the severity and duration of upper respiratory tract infections.

Older adults may have significant protection against upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) by taking yeast-derived beta-glucans says the August 2017 Lung Health magazine.

I was introduced recently to 1,3 1,6 beta glucans as possible protection against the coronavirus. Beta-glucans are sugars (polysaccharides) derived from the walls of bacteria, fungi, and yeasts. These sugars can activate our immune systems to orchestrate an avalanche of protection against pathogenic viruses (think coronaviruses) and bacterial challenges.

While researching the 1,3 1,6 beta glucans, I found a study with a beta-glucan (1,3 1,5 beta-glucan) derived from brewer’s yeast. The results were simple – fewer days of URTIs. This was accomplished by increasing the interferon-gamma production in the participants. The chemical nomenclature 1,3 or 1,5 or 1,6 refers to the side branches (side-chains) of the six-sided glucose molecule.


Interferon-gamma is a cytokine. Cytokines are small proteins (peptides) that are critical for cell signaling and act as immunomodulating agents. This means that they stimulate natural killer cells and neutrophils. Interferon was named for its ability to interfere with viral proliferation.

Natural killer cells bind to tumor cells and virus-infected cells and kill them. Neutrophils are white blood cells that circulate in our bloodstream. They sense the first presence of infection and migrate to the source of the infection and kill the invading microbes.

The study of 98 adults (aged 50-70 years of age) was done as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. During a 90-day period for one winter season, the groups were evaluated regarding the severity and duration of cold/flu symptoms. The results showed the beta-glucan group had a shorter duration of symptoms. Their cytokine concentrations were also higher compared to the placebo group.

Another randomized, placebo-controlled study this time using 1,3 1,6 beta glucans on 299 healthy men and women who averaged three URTIs a year lasted 16 weeks. The results were similar. The beta-glucan group had reduced severity of URTI symptoms, lower blood pressure, and happier moods.

A third placebo-controlled, double-blind study tested the effectiveness of commercially available 1,3 1,6 beta-glucan on 75 marathon runners (men and women) ranging from 18 to 53 years of age. The testing was done during a four-week post-marathon period. The beta-glucan group had fewer URTI symptoms, better overall health, decreased confusion and fatigue, improved mood and increased vigor compared to the other group.

Beta-glucans have been used for many years to treat high cholesterol, cancer, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, and canker sores. Additionally, beta-glucans have been used to boost the immune systems of those with chronic fatigue syndrome, physical and emotional stress, and to ameliorate the symptoms of chemo and radiation therapies.

The more common approach has been to use beta-glucans to treat colds, influenza, swine flu, respiratory tract infections, allergies, hepatitis, Lyme disease, asthma, ear infections, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases with beta-glucans. It has also been used topically to treat bedsores, wounds, burns, diabetic ulcers, and radiation burns.

I wrote recently about the ability of beta-glucans to lose weight by slowing the rate of absorption of carbohydrates and lipids. Beta-glucans are also used to prevent the absorption of cholesterol.

Does taking 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans guarantee that you will not come down with a cold, the flu, or coronavirus? No, of course, it doesn’t. It does have a track record of making the symptoms less intense and for a shorter time. Does 1,3 1,6 or 1,3 1.5 beta-glucans make sense to bolster your immune system to enhance your personal defense against viral and bacterial upper respiratory tract infections? Yes, I believe it does.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin

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