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What is a Yeast Beta Glucan? And How Does it Support Immunity?

what makes a quality beta glucan

When you’re considering ways to support your immune health, the options on the market are vast. From echinacea to zinc, the choices can be overwhelming—and often reflective of the latest trending health news. One trend—oat- and mushroom-derived beta glucans—has been associated with a myriad of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and improving heart health—and in some cases, supporting immune system function. But only yeast-derived beta glucans (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) have been shown to have well-substantiated immune-supporting properties.

When it comes to beta glucans, the differences matter. Read on to learn more.

What are the differences between beta glucans?

Oats. Mushrooms. Yeast. It sounds like a grocery list for a trendy bistro. What all these ingredients have in common is that they are types of beta glucans. But the similarities end there. Not only are these three types different on a molecular level, but they have differing effects on the body as well. Although each of these types of beta glucans provide health benefits, the benefits differ, depending on the type of beta glucan.

  • Oats. Oat-based beta glucans are notable for promoting heart health and helping manage LDL (bad) cholesterol. But scientific evidence does not strongly support this type of beta glucan for enhancing immune system function. So while keeping your heart functioning and cholesterol levels in check are important in preserving health, oat beta glucans can’t help ward off threats to immune health.
  • Mushrooms. Although mushroom beta glucans have been shown to have immune health benefits, research indicates that their potency is lower than that of certain well-studied baker’s yeast beta glucans. Because there are countless undiscovered species of mushrooms—and among the known types, research on benefits is mixed—they may not be the best overall choice for immune support.
  • Yeast. Yeast-derived beta glucans usually originate in either baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast. Even though both are beta 1,3/1,6 glucan from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the source matters—the beta glucans extracted from the cell walls of baker’s yeast have a different molecular pattern from that of brewer’s yeast, which can influence the immune-modulating abilities of the final product. Research supports the immune-modulating properties of baker’s yeast beta glucan—but not all strains are the same.

When evaluating a baker’s yeast beta glucan for its benefits, look for clinical research that supports the ingredient’s mechanism of action and provides data that demonstrates its safety and effectiveness. Research must be specific to that ingredient (or strain) and its process of extraction, because these attributes make a difference in effectiveness.

Get to know Wellmune®, a yeast beta glucan that supports immune system health. Watch the video to learn more.


Evaluating beta glucans
What makes a quality beta glucan?

How do you know that a yeast beta glucan ingredient is the best choice for supporting immune health? Basically, it comes down to three factors: how it works, how it’s made, and standardization.

  • How it works: High-quality beta glucans are supported by a well-developed understanding of an ingredient’s biological activity, and its mechanism for action in the body. Each beta glucan source has a different structure (molecular backbone and level of branching), which affects its biological activity. As an example, take baker’s yeast beta glucans, which are extracted from the cell walls of yeast. Certain strains, like Wellmune, have demonstrated immune health benefits which have been supported by clinical research.
  • How it’s made: The manufacturing or processing methods used to extract the beta glucans can impact their structure. If the beta glucan’s structure is damaged or altered during the manufacturing process, the result could be a loss of measurable immune health benefits in the finished product.
  • Standardization: Simply put, standardization is a process of confirming that the product being made contains the right amount of an ingredient in the right quantity to provide a benefit. To ensure that the ingredient is stable and works well, manufacturers must ensure standardization. Standardization helps manufacturers establish serving size, manufacturing consistency, and stability of the product. Common standardization practices include:
    • Characterization: This practice involves identifying the substance and mapping its characteristics, and detecting the presence of impurities. This ensures a safe product that delivers on claims.
    • Measurement: Ingredients are measured so that the amount of the active ingredient in the product is enough to provide the stated benefit, helping consumers choose the best options for their needs.
    • Stability and shelf life testing: This testing ensures that the ingredient is stable and effective, so consumers can be sure the product will continue providing benefits for its stated shelf life.

As well, biomarker testing can help reveal the biological change that occurs when the product is consumed, indicating its effectiveness.

Download our Cheat Sheet to learn more about how manufacturers can ensure they are getting the best beta glucan for their immune health products.

What type of beta glucan is Wellmune?
Wellmune, a proven yeast beta glucan.

Wellmune is a natural yeast beta glucan used by food, beverage and supplement brands to create products with immune health benefits for people of all ages. Using a proprietary process, Wellmune is extracted from the cell wall of a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast.

Wellmune can help support immune system functioning with research-backed benefits. Watch the video to learn how it works.

Wellmune works by boosting the action of macrophages. Macrophages, the white blood cells that attack threats to the immune system,  recognize foreign substances like viruses, and prime these cells to fight an infection or inflammation. The overall effect is to “prime” the immune system, rather than “boost” it, as occurs with immune enhancers, which may lead to cellular stress and compromise how cells function.

Wellmune is well-researched.

Wellmune is supported by biomarker, mechanism-of-action, and over a dozen published, peer-reviewed human clinical research studies  that demonstrate its ability to improve overall physical health, maintain healthy energy levels, and provide immune support for all ages and lifestyles:

  • In families with children: Researchers in China gave 1- to 4-year-old children an age-appropriate dose of Wellmune during the cold season. All of the 152 children enrolled had experienced at least one upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) within the previous three months. The researchers discovered that after 12 weeks, children taking Wellmune reported six fewer sick days.
  • For healthy aging: In a recent pilot study, older adults given 250 mg of Wellmune (compared to a placebo) exhibited a strong trend toward a reduction in the number of URTIs, a reduction in the symptom days of a cold, and statistically significant changes in the body’s response to viral encounters and inflammation.
  • For athletes and active lifestylers: Researchers also found improved psychological well-being in exercise-stressed adults and improved vigor in marathon athletes.
    • Multiple clinical studies with marathoners, cyclists, and other athletes have demonstrated that Wellmune helps athletes stay healthy during and after intense exercise, allowing for harder and longer periods of training.
    • In a clinical study with 182 marathon runners, participants taking 250 mg/day of Wellmune showed a 40 percent reduction in URTI symptoms. In another study involving 75 marathon runners, participants taking 250 mg/day of Wellmune experienced a 22 percent increase in vigor and a 48 percent reduction in fatigue.
  • During times of stress: Wellmune can help support immune balance in individuals who work in stressful or physically demanding jobs. One study among wildland firefighters found that those taking 250 mg/day of Wellmune had a 23 percent reduction in URTI symptoms compared to the control group. Health performance questionnaires completed at the end of the 14-day study found “dramatic improvement” in overall physical health.


Contact us for more information on Wellmune, and how it can help create successful immune health products around the globe. 

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