There’s a cute TV commercial where a little girl talks about beta-glucans and their content in each serving of Cheerios, a popular oat-based cereal. Beta-glucans are often associated with heart health, treating cancer, and as an immunity booster. Beta-glucans are a food product purported to possibly reduce bad LDL cholesterol.
It is thought that beta-glucans reduce cholesterol levels by increasing excretion of cholesterol from the digestive tract. This affects two forms of cholesterol: cholesterol from food, and, more importantly, cholesterol from the blood “recycled” by the liver through the intestines. In addition, beta-glucans in unprocessed foods may help limit the rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal. Immune-related effects seen in studies of beta-glucans indicate observed alterations in the activity of certain white blood cells and changes in the levels or actions of substances, called cytokines, that modulate immune function.
A beta-glucan refers to a class of soluble fibers found in many plant sources. In a sense, you are what you eat. Beta-glucans are found in fiber of certain foods you (hopefully) eat. Beta-glucans are found in whole grains, particularly oats, wheat, and barley. Baker’s yeast, and certain mushrooms are also dietary sources. The FDA has allowed a Heart Healthy label claim for food products containing substantial amounts of beta-glucans. There are scientific claims that consumption of 3 grams per day of beta-glucans may result in a 5-10% reduction of LDL cholesterol in serum tests. According to Cheerios’ ad, a serving of Cheerios contains 3 grams of beta-glucans in its basic oat-based variety.
Europeans have known about how beta-glucans may play a role at reducing LDL cholesterol. They incorporate unprocessed oats and oat bran into cereals like Muesli and Granola. Oat bread is popular in some areas. For those that have mild risk levels of cholesterol, beta-glucans may play a significant normalizing role from dietary sources. Does that mean that eating more oats will reduce LDL levels in moderately high cholesterol levels?
Multiple servings of ready-to-eat oat cereals may not provide enhanced health effects. Other ingredients (added sugars, for example) and processing may actually present negative cofactors. Studies cite evidence that oatmeal provides greater satiety of appetite than ready-to-eat cereals like Cheerios. Also, many ready-to-eat cereals add unnecessary sugars and flavors to make them marketable to general market consumption. These can collide against any possible benefits beta-glucans provide. Monitoring glycemic-index at breakfast meals aids energy throughout the day and diet is a part of managing cholesterol. Food technologists are working to help enhance the benefits of beta-glucans in a wider range of foods.
For improving total and LDL cholesterol, studies have found benefit with beta-glucans at doses ranging from 3 to 15 grams daily. There appears to be no effect on HDL.
Yet, for all this possible benefit as a healthy dietary resource for heart healthier approaches to managing cholesterol and sugar levels, diets higher in beta-glucans may also pose danger and risks. Beta-glucan, as a substance widely present in foods, if taken in high doses through dietary supplements may do more harm than benefit. If beta-glucans can stimulate the immune system, harmful effects are at least theoretically possible in people that have overactive immune systems. These include multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and hundreds of other conditions. To what extent may be unclear. Beta-glucans may be contributing variables.
In addition, beta-glucans are somewhat related with beta-amyloids. Beta-amyloids, some suspect, may be precursors of cognitive disorders, such as the infamous Alzheimer Disease. From food, beta-glucans prove safe. Abused supplementation has not been studied but theoretically might be a bridge to neurocognitive disorders. Then again, the relationship between glucans and amyloids haven’t really been studied to draw any conclusions. It is very speculative.
In the USA, and other parts of the world, sowing oats is part of an important farming culture. It is connected to longevity and a well life. Beta-glucans, phytonutrients in the grain, may be why people who have balanced diets with oats as part of a daily routine may be healthier. There are many articles about longevity that stress lifestyle diets.
World peace may never be achievable. Vascular wellness may be possible without resorting to medicinal drugs. Eating foods with beta-glucans may help you reach a healthy age of 100, unless something else confounds the picture. Having beta-glucans in your diet might be good for you! Isn’t it time to eat your oats today?