Kerry identifies structural differences between commercial beta glucans

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Kerry Beta glucan Immunity

All beta (β) glucans are not created equal, according to Kerry scientists, who reveal that structural differences in yeast β-glucans may influence health benefits associated with the fibre’s consumption.

Writing in Food Chemistry​, the ingredient specialists detail the structural differences observed in five commercial samples of yeast β-glucan that is likely to determine biological activity.

“We’ve long known that all beta glucans are not created equal when it comes to scientifically proven health benefits,”​ explains Donald Cox, study author and R&D Director at Kerry.

“What these new findings demonstrate is that each proprietary source of yeast beta glucan is structurally different.”

The study took five commercial samples of yeast β-glucan, which were assayed for their β-glucan, carbohydrate, and glycogen content and compared it to the (1,3/1,6) β-d-glucan isolated from the yeast cell wall of Saccharomyces cerevisiae​ – the main component of Kerry’s immune supporting ingredient Wellmune.

Study findings

Results revealed β-glucan content of these samples ranged from 74% to 86% while the glycogen content varied from 0 to 20%.

The linkage pattern of each sample was also measured, which showed samples varied from 1.9% to 9.2% branching. Side length distributions of the samples were shown to be similar.

“The various sources of yeast β-glucan tested in this study suggest that the source (or strain) of yeast and the method used to isolate and purify the yeast β-glucan are important factors affecting the final structure of the yeast β-glucan,”​ the study concludes.

“Structural data presented here suggest that the production process specific to each source might result in slight alteration of the chemical structure of the β-glucan.

“On the other hand, the linkage process effect was ruled out. Additional studies comparing the effect of yeast β-glucan structure on biological activity should be considered as a next step in the research process.”

β-Glucans naturally occur in cereals, lichens, bacteria, mushrooms, and yeast with the fibre implicated in aiding the immune system to recognise and respond to potential fungal pathogens.

β-glucans present in food and beverage products have numerous effects on the human body and these biological effects are structurally dependent.

Some studies have shown that beverages supplemented with oat β-glucan resulted in significant decreases in total and LDL cholesterol levels​ compared to controls in hypercholesterolemic subjects.

“Because Wellmune has a unique chemical structure, the wealth of research carried out on it cannot be used to claim immune health benefits for other beta glucans,”​ adds Cox.

“The next step is to investigate more about the way these structural differences affect functional benefits, and we hope to be at the forefront of this research.”

β-glucan interests

Along with Kerry, other firms in the β-glucan space include Israeli firm Solabia-Algatech Nutrition, which launched its algal fermentation-derived ingredient in the Summer.

The ingredient, BioGlena, is produced via a ‘proprietary fermentation technology’ via the organism Euglena gracilis​, ​a single celled, freshwater algal species.

Like a number of other algal species, it can feed photosynthetically or can be cultivated in a fermentation scenario.

Other firms include Kemin Industries, which announced its algae-sourced beta glucan ingredient received Novel Foods Approval by the European Commission (EC) in December last year.

The Iowa-based firm revealed details of the motion​​, which included a five-year exclusivity on sales of the product ‘BetaVia Complete’ within the European Union.

BetaVia Complete is the firm’s algae-sourced beta-glucan ingredient that is manufactured through a patented process using a proprietary strain of algae, Euglena gracilis​ ​ATCC PTA-123017.

The fibre’s versatility has recently been put to the test in a pilot study​ that reported the intake of two strains of beta glucans could lower cytokine storm and coagulopathy biomarkers in COVID-19 patients.

The mild symptoms of COVID-19 involve fever, cough or runny nose, but cytokine storm and coagulopathy have been linked to the onset of severe cases of COVID-19.

Source: Food Chemistry

Published online:

“Comparison of structural differences between yeast β-glucan sourced from different strains of saccharomyces cerevisiae and processed using proprietary manufacturing processes.”

Authors: Jean Boutros et al