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Beta-Glucan Shows Promise as Probiotic Agent

Beta-glucan sourced from the barley plant and barley-based products can help improve the digestive tracts of people over 50 because of its probiotic potential.

Beta-glucan is a fibrous compound that naturally occurs in the cell walls of food such as the fiber of the barley plant and edible yeast.

Beta-glucan is also present in food mushrooms, such as the maitake mushroom.  Since it is nearly everywhere, eating food that has lots of beta-glucan may improve digestion, new study says.  Better digestion results from its seemingly probiotic effect, which is more noticeable in individuals fifty years old and above.

The study was published this year in Food Research International and is led by Adamantini Kyriacou, a researcher from the Harokopio University, which is based in Athens, Greece.

There should be no confusion with the term “probiotic”. According to Gibson et.al. in a related study on the human digestive process, probiotics is defined as non-digestible materials that have a positive or beneficial effect on the metabolism of the whole digestive tract.

Beta-glucan from oats & barley

The most widespread form of beta-glucan is found in oats. For many years now, this type of beta-glucan has already been associated with lower bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins) and has been tagged as a potential preventive for coronary heart disease.

The US Food and Drug Administration has already declared the link between specific oat products and better heart health.  More than a decade ago, the FDA established that a person only needs 3 grams of the compound to help lower cholesterol.

The Greek study endeavored to find out if beta-glucan derived from the barley plant produced the same positive effects.  The randomized study that involved more than fifty individuals (between the age of thirty-nine and seventy-two) showed that the positive probiotic effect was more apparent in the individuals over the age of fifty.

Some positive effects were also seen in younger respondents, but their response to the beta-glucan was not as statistically significant as the response of the fifty-plus year old respondents.

Other benefits of beta-glucan

Beta-glucan has also other established health benefits:

  1. It binds to low-density lipoproteins (“bad cholesterol”) and removes them from the body, effectively reducing the cholesterol level in the body.
  2. Beta-glucan has also been used to support the medical treatment of diabetes and obesity.  It may have some positive effects on weight loss efforts because it reduces cholesterol and improves heart health.
  3. Beta-glucan can also be used as an immunostimulant.
  4. For cancer patients, the addition of beta-glucan may help improve the digestive process and strengthen the immune system.
  5. Beta-glucan is also capable of reducing the blood sugar level of diabetics.

Sources:
nutrasanus.com
nutraingredients.com
naturalmedicine.about.com

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