1-3, 1-6 Beta Glucans

As winter approaches you should be aware of the power of the natural immune enhancing nutrient called 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans. (This type of beta glucans is not the same as oat beta glucans, which can help lower cholesterol levels, but is not an immune booster.)

From baker’s yeast and shiitake mushrooms

Wellmune 1,3 1,6 beta glucans are extracted from the cell walls of baker’s yeast. Shiitake mushrooms also contain some 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans, but a supplement like ImmunoShielddelivers a consistent daily dose.

Increasing the effect of the body’s own ‘killer’ cells

Many research studies have shown they activate the body’s own immune defences, increasing the number and activity of neutrophils, macrophages and Natural Killer (NK) cells—killer cells which hunt down external pathogens and internal rogue cells like cancer.

1-3, 1-6 Beta glucans also prime other lymphocytes—cells that bind to tumours or viruses, and release chemicals to destroy them. This is similar to the new medical approach in cancer called immunotherapy that is causing so much interest.

Wellmune patented 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans

The most studied—and even patented—form of 1-3,1-6 beta glucans is called Wellmune with over £100 million of research behind it. Wellmune beta glucans have been milled to a sufficiently tiny particle size to activate natural killer cells. They are also small enough not to risk triggering a yeast allergy, which can happen with less well purified forms.


Fewer days of flu symptoms and less days off work

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Immune support to combat fatigue, increase energy, reduce diarrhoea

  1. A 4-year study called The FibeBiotics Project was run by a consortium of four European universities.  According to a 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.”
  2. 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
 •  42% more people reporting increased  energy and reduced fatigue
 •  75% less URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infections) symptoms.

  1.  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 E. coli called ETEC, the culprit behind Montezuma’s revenge or traveller’s diarrhoea.

Beta Glucans are safer than Echinacea

The UK’s 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.

Cancer therapy?

Beta glucans have been used as an immune-adjuvant therapy – ie. 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 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 an important part in helping your body fight not just the common cold but possibly also more serious diseases.

One of the few natural supplements that contains Wellmune 1-3,1-6 beta glucans is created by Dr Paul Clayton ImmunoShield. 


• Auinger A,  Riede L, Bothe G, Busch R, Gruenwald J. Yeast (1,3)-(1,6)-beta-glucan helps to maintain the body’s defence against pathogens: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicentric study in healthy subjects Eur J Nutr. 2013; 52(8): 1913–1918.
• Novak M, Vetvicka V. Beta-glucans, history, and the present: immunomodulatory aspects and mechanisms of action.  J Immunotoxicol. 2008 Jan;5(1):47-57.
• Chihara G. Recent progress in immunopharmacology and therapeutic effects of polysaccharides.  Dev Biol Stand. 1992;
• Stuyven E, Cox E, Vancaeneghem S, Arnouts S, Deprez P, Goddeeris BM. Effect of beta-glucans on an ETEC infection in piglets. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2009 Mar 15;128(1-3):60-6. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2008.10.311. Epub 2008 Oct 17.