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Why are the Manufacturing Methods of Beta Glucans so Important?

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High-quality beta glucans are supported by a well-developed understanding of an ingredient’s biological activity, its manufacturing processes, and the standardization practices that have been employed to ensure the ingredient is stable and efficacious.

Donald Cox, Ph.D., Wellmune’s head of R&D, gives us his firsthand insights into what makes a quality immune health ingredient and why it is so important for manufacturers to understand these processes when looking for high-quality beta glucans with immune health benefits.

What are some of the aspects that play a role in the quality of a beta glucan?

A few things that play a key role in ensuring that a beta glucan is of high quality is the understanding around the ingredient’s stability, its manufacturing processes, and how it impacts the ingredient’s biological activity. It’s also important to understand how its efficacy is measured and defined.

Why is ingredient stability so important?

The concerns with ingredient stability are two-fold: some functional ingredients can affect finished product stability, such as by causing ingredients to bind to other ingredients or precipitate out of the solution, or the manufacturing process may reduce the potency of the functional ingredient and its health benefits.

How can manufacturing processes impact the biological activity of an ingredient?

Each beta glucan source has a different structure (e.g., molecular backbone and level of branching), which affects its biological activity. For example, take baker’s yeast beta glucans, which are extracted from the cell walls of yeast. Certain strains have demonstrated immune health benefits, which have been supported by clinical research. In fact, a recent study confirms that immune health ingredient Wellmune® has a unique chemical structure, meaning that the many studies on its benefits cannot be applied to other beta glucans.

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.

~ Donald Cox, Ph.D

The manufacturing or processing methods used to extract the beta glucans can impact their structure. If the beta glucan’s structure is damaged or altered during the manufacturing process, there could be a loss of efficacy or measurable immune health benefits for the consumer.

What else is important when determining the efficacy of a beta glucan?

Because not all beta glucan sources have been linked to immune health benefits, knowledge of strain sources and clinical research are essential to understanding their benefits. Clinical research that supports a beta glucan’s biological activity must be specific to the strain of yeast used to source the beta glucan. This is the only way to ensure efficacy.

How can manufacturers ensure that the beta glucan being produced is efficacious and high quality?

Product manufacturers should look for a clinically demonstrated, well-characterized ingredient. Characterization allows measurement and standardization, which is required for establishing serving size, manufacturing consistency, and stability and shelf-life testing. A poorly characterized ingredient could result in an array of problems, so standardizing safe, efficacious servings is a must.

Lastly, make sure appropriate analytical methods are available to quantify the amount of the active ingredient present in the finished product post-processing and during shelf-life testing.

What does serving size have to do with it?

We often see functional ingredients that either lack serving size research to determine optimum serving sizes or finished products containing only a small fraction of the ingredient’s efficacious amount demonstrated through clinical studies. A recommended daily serving should deliver benefits consistent with clinical research to demonstrate its benefits and support claims.


Want to learn more about beta glucans for immune health? Download the white paper: How do I choose the right beta glucan? 

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