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Beta-glucan shows treatment promise.

[beta]1,3-glucan, a long-chain polysaccharide, is one of the compounds that stimulates the body's antibacterial and antitumor responses. Found in mushrooms, yeast, and cereal grains, this compound increases macrophage, neutrophil, and natural killer (NK) cell activity as well as cytokine production. (Cytokines are proteins that coordinate antibody and T cell immune interactions and amplify immune reactivity.)


A 2002 pilot study conducted by Vaclav Vetvicka, PhD, and colleagues showed that a commercial, yeast-derived [beta]1,3-glucan product (Imucell WGP Beta Glucan, Biopolymer Engineering Inc., Eagan, Minnesota) protects mice against anthrax infection and cancer. To investigate beta-glucan's ability to fight infection, 20 mice received 7 days of oral treatment with beta-glucan. Ten received 0.2 mg of beta-glucan/kg of body weight per day, and 10 got 20 mg/kg. At the end of treatment, researchers gave these mice and 10 untreated controls a subcutaneous injection of anthrax spores. All of the beta-glucan subjects survived anthrax infection. Only 5 of the 10 untreated control mice lived.

For the cancer investigation, another group of mice received 28.4 mg of beta-glucan per kilogram of body weight daily for 21 days. Researchers then injected tumor cells into treated mice and untreated controls. Twenty-one days later, the mice were killed and the tumors removed. Tumors taken from the treated mice weighed less than those from the control: 0.52 [+ or -] 0.06 grams vs. 0.66 [+ or -] 0.06 grams in control mice. Moreover, the control mice clearly felt worse: "... the control animals were observed to be inactive and crouching, and had reduced body temperature in comparison to the WGP Beta Glucan-treated animals." Cytokine levels in spleen cells taken from treated mice and control mice also differed. Interleukin-2, which increases T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, was 2.3-fold higher in cells from the treated mice than those from controls. Interferon--[gamma], which activates macrophages, increases B cell differentiation and NK cell activity, and decreases tumor growth, was 4.4-fold higher in cells from the beta-glucan mice; and tumor necrosis factor-[alpha], which increases cytokines and inflammatory and immune responses, was 2.2-fold higher.

Russell L. Blaylock, MD, who wrote an editorial commentary about this study, says: "The use of [beta]1,3-glucan is of special interest in the cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment, since [beta]-glucans have shown a remarkable ability to accelerate hematopoietic recovery [normal blood cell development] in both sub-lethally and lethally irradiated mice, even when given after the radiation dose. It can also stimulate recovery of the bone marrow following chemotherapy, something vital to restricting tumor growth and preventing infectious complications during treatment."

Since not all beta-glucan products are alike, Vaclav Vetvicka and Jana Vetvickova evaluated and compared the immunological effects of seven commercial [beta]1,3-glucan products in a 2007 study. The glucans in these products came from different sources: yeast, mushrooms, and cereals. The researchers looked at interleukin-2 production, phagocyte activity, surface markers on splenocytes, and antibody response. The glucans that produced the greatest response in mice were Transfer Point's Glucan #300, NOW Beta Glucan, and Maitake Gold 404. The glucan's purity affects results more than the source of the glucan, the researchers say. Vetvicka and Vetvickova encourage practitioners and consumers to use glucan products "from a solid vendor who is able to back the claims with solid scientific data." Some of the products tested in their study had "surprisingly low activity." This study is available at

Blaylock RL. Yeast [beta]1,3-glucan and its use against anthrax infection and in the treatment of cancer. JANA, Spring 2002;5(2):3-4. Available at: Accessed June 23, 2010.

Lanigan AJ. The immune response enhanced by beta-1,3-D glucan [press release]. Available at: Accessed June 24, 2010.

Vetvicka V. A daily dose could save your life. Health + News. 11(10): 1,4.

Vetvicka F, Terayama K, Mandeville R, Brousseau P, et al. Pilot study: orally-administered yeast [beta]1,3-glucan prophylactically protects against anthrax infection and cancer in mice. JANA. Spring 2002;5(2):5-9. Available at: Accessed June 23, 2010.

Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. An evaluation of the immunological activities of commercially available [beta]1,3-glucans. JANA. 2007; 10(1);25-31. Available at Accessed June 23, 2010.

briefed by Jule Klotter
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Title Annotation:Shorts
Author:Klotter, Jule
Publication:Townsend Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2010
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