Written by Joe Suppes

You May have Heard of Oat Beta-Glucans, But What Are They?

Because of the complex nature of food sometimes we have to use technical names to talk about its contents.  “Beta glucan” is just a term that describes a type of fiber that is found in oats and other sources such as mushrooms, nutritional yeast, fruits, and other whole grains.  Beta glucans are soluble, which means they can mix with water.  So, in other words, beta glucans are a soluble fiber present in foods.   Oat beta glucan is a unique form of soluble fiber which has special properties that are beneficial for helping lower cholesterol levels.

How do Beta Glucans Affect Cholesterol Levels?

There are three main properties of oat beta glucan that are thought give it the ability to lower cholersterol: its viscosity, ability to bind to bile, and ability to be fermented by good bacteria in the gut.

Viscosity is a property of beta glucans that causes food in the digestive tract to bind to fat and cholesterol and keep some of it from being absorbed.  When less fat is absorbed less cholesterol is made.  Not only is this good for your heart, but your waistline, too!
Bile is the main way for the body to get rid of excess cholsterol.   Beta glucan binds to bile and carries it out of the body.  If bile is not carried out of the body it is reabsorbed.  This means that instead of being removed, it’s redeposited.  By removing bile, beta glucan removes cholesterol that’s already in the body.
Another possible mechanism for beta glucans cholesterol lowering ability is that beta glucan feeds helpful bacteria in the body.  There are many types of bacteria that are supposed to be in the body.  These bacteria are very important to your health.  When these helpful bacteria digest the beta glucan, they release natural chemicals.  Some of these chemicals block the body’s ability to make cholesterol.

Beta-Glucans Have Health Benefits Today and Tomorrow

Besides its benefits for lowering cholesterol, beta glucans have other beneficial properties.  They have been shown in studies to increase immune function.  Beta glucans can also slow the absorption of food and thereby decrease the amount of insulin needed to deal with each meal.  This can have benefits for blood sugar balance and weight loss.  Some of the chemicals created by the beneficial bacteria that eat beta glucan are food for the cells of the intestines.  Because beta glucan is a viscous fiber it can also help regulate bowel movement.  If these are the side effects we can get from a natural product like Nutrim, then I’ll take it!


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