Beta Glucan

Beta Glucan

"Glucan is a potent reticuloendothelial-modulating agent whose immunobiological activity is mediated, in part, by an increase in the number and function of macrophages." "There is now evidence to show that beta glucan may be the most ubiquitous macrophage activator in nature. Once activated the macrophage, through its ability to initiate a cascade of cellular responses, becomes the central conductor of the immune symphony. A macrophage can recognize and kill tumor cells nonspecifically, as well as remove foreign debris."



In the ongoing battle to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering serum cholesterol levels, scientists have discovered that some cereal grains, particularly barley and oats, provide excel" lent cholesterol reduction. Eating these grains, in conjunction with a fat modified diet, is an encouraging alternative to the current cholesterol-reducing prescription drugs, which are extremely unpleasant to take and can have serious side effects including constipation, nausea, heart arrythmias and cancer. On the other hand, good tasting cereal grains can simply be eaten as part of a balanced, fat-modified diet. Their excellent cholesterol-lowering properties are apparently due to naturally occuring soluble fibers called beta-glucans. Research indicates that serum cholesterol can be reduced substantially simply by eating more breads and cereals that contain beta-glucan rich grains.

While a substantial amount of press coverage has been given to the cholesterol-reducing properties of oats, new studies indicate that barley is also effective in lowering cholesterol levels. The difference in cholesterol-reducing effectiveness of the beta-glucans extracted from various cereal grains is shown in the accompanying graphic. In addition to better quality beta-glucans, barley has higher total levels of the cholesterol-reducing compounds. Carol Klopfenstein, a biochemist responsible for much of the research that produced these figures, said of the results: "I can safely say that barley contains significantly more beta-glucan than oats." Barley has also been linked to reduction of the liver's manufacturer of cholesterol, an effect similar to that of the new cholesterol drug, lovastatin.

Barley products are often added to whole grain breads, cereals and baked goods to improve consistency, add pleasing texture and enhance flavor. The beta-glucan content and cholesterol-reducing power of these foods is also improved when barley is added. Barley is inexpensive, plentiful and can be easily added to food, often without altering the taste of the final product.

The potential of barley to substantially reduce serum cholesterol levels in the adult population is excellent. If major food processors take advantage of the plentiful supply and low cost of barley, the impact on worldwide human health could be dramatic.

According to Cereal Foods World magazine, October 1988 "There is now hardly a shadow of a doubt that lowering blood cholesterol levels will reduce the risk of heart disease and retard or reverse its progress in people already suffering its effects. Last year, more than 60,000 Americans died of heart disease because arteries carrying blood from their hearts were clogged with lipid deposits, including cholesterol." Barley may be one of the important weapons in the fight against disease-causing cholesterol.

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