As winter approaches you should be aware of the accumulated research behind a natural immune enhancing product called 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans.
This type of bet glucans is not the same as oat beta glucans which, although research shows it can help lower cholesterol levels, is not an immune booster.
1,3 1,6 beta glucans are extracted from the cell walls of baker’s yeast. Many research studies have shown they activate the body’s own immune defences, increasing the number and activity of neutrophils and macrophages—killer cells which hunt down external pathogens and internal rogue cells like cancer. In addition to increasing the activity of Natural Killer cells, beta glucans prime other lymphocytes – cells that bind to tumours or viruses, and release chemicals to destroy them. This is similar to the new approach called Immunotherapy that is causing so much medical interest.
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Studies show fewer days of flu symptoms and less days off work –
The most studied form of 1-3,1-6 beta glucans is called Wellmune with over £100 million worth of research behind it. Wellmune contains beta glucans that have been milled sufficiently small to activate natural killer cells. They are also small enough not to risk triggering a yeast allergy – which is possible with less well manufactured forms.
Key studies include:
- The gold standard for clinical trials is a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. The European Journal of Nutrition reported on such a study in healthy subjects, which proved that beta-glucan 1-3, 1-6 helps prevent colds, improves symptoms and increases the body’s potential to defend against invading pathogens.
- A 90-day study, presented at a British Society for Immunology conference, assessed the effectiveness of Wellmune beta glucans, (the main active ingredient in the brand ImmunoShield). The study was conducted with a healthy population of 100 medical students during the peak of the 2010 cold/flu season.
Medical students, of course, work long hours in hospitals which inevitably places stress on their immune systems. Those taking Wellmune daily reported:
◄ 43 fewer days of symptoms than their colleagues who received a placebo
◄ Significantly reduced duration of URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infections) ie symptoms of colds and flu.
- A 4-year study called The FibeBiotics Project was run by a consortium of four European universities. According to a Fibe-Biotics statement: “Research indicates that some specific poly-saccharides, for example those from the cell wall of yeast, can activate the immune system … even when no intruders are present.“These polysaccharides have been shown to activate macrophages, which can ‘digest’ pathogens and unwanted cells.
- A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2009, and involving 150 people categorised as leading highly stressful lives, recorded that subjects taking 250 mg of Wellmune a day – the dose level in ImmunoShield – reported:-
► a 41% increase in general health when compared with the placebo group
► a 42% increase in people reporting increased energy and reduced fatigue
► 75% less URTI symptoms.
At Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, researchers found that the compound enhances antibiotic efficacy in rats infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Further animal research highlights beta glucan’s positive impact on a form of Escherichia coli (ETEC), the culprit behind Montezuma’s revenge – otherwise known as traveller’s diarrhea.
Beta Glucans is safer than Echinacea
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has advised parents not to give Echinacea to children younger than 12 years – because it can cause allergic reactions.
Although this risk is fairly minor, there is another reason to prefer Wellmune 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans over Echinacea. And it is to do with two terms that sound the same but are not.
Echinacea is an immune stimulant and it increases the number of white blood cells to fight infection. But long term use can create an overabundance of these white cells – a condition called a cytokine storm. This can lead to breaking down of the mucous membrane lining in the lungs and even increase risk of death.
Wellmune primes the immune system by encouraging production of neutrophils – natural killer cells which have a life of only a few days. It cannot create a cytokine storm and is therefore safe for continuous use.
So unlike Echinacea, regular use of beta glucans does not risk inducing inflammatory cytokines which can over-stimulate the immune system.
Shiitake mushrooms also contain some 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans, but a supplement like Immunoshield delivers a consistent daily dose.
Cancer risk reduction?
Beta glucans have been used as an immune-adjuvant therapy – (in combination with pharmaceutical drugs) – for cancer since 1980, largely in Japan, but also at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville Kentucky.
Researchers at Teikyo University’s Biotechnology Research Center in Kawasaki, Japan, showed that lentinan – a type of beta glucan found in shiitake mushrooms – can help suppress the formation and development of tumours – and lessen the side effects of cancer treatment
“Results of the clinical application of lentinan have proven prolongation of life span of the patients with advanced and recurrent stomach, colorectal, and breast cancer with only little toxic side effect,” wrote the study’s authors.
In an earlier Japanese study, mice with tumours that received beta glucans, including lentinan, experienced a decrease in the number of tumour cells as well as an increase in neutrophils in solid tumours. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that destroys invaders by using chemicals to break them down.
Many studies show that adding 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans to your daily diet—either as a supplement or in foods that contain the compound—can play a important part in helping your body fight not just the common cold but possibly also more serious diseases.
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