Recent study explores structural differences between beta-glucan ingredients

Structural differences between beta-glucan strains may be due to source and manufacturing process, says recent study.

A recent study1 explored the differences between five strains of beta-glucan. The main differences found between the beta-glucan strains was the presence of glycogen and the chemical structure. Through a linkage analysis, researchers determined that 1,3- was the dominant linkage in all the samples, but 6-linked and 4-linked glucan varied. Elevated levels of 6-linked glucan were associated with elevated levels of branching and elevated levels of 4-linked glucan was associated with increased levels of α-1,4-linked glycogen. The presence of glycogen affects the quantification of beta-glucan when using traditional acid hydrolosis methods, and may diminish the intended health benefit of the beta glucan. This is why it is therefore important to remove and measure the amount of glycogen in the final product.

“This [linkage analysis] suggests that the yeast source and manufacturing process result in a particular linkage pattern unique to each commercial source of yeast β-glucan,” state the researchers in the study.

The researchers conclude that, “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. 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.”

The differences between beta-glucan ingredients suggest that their effects on the immune system will vary. ““We’ve long known that all beta glucans are not created equal when it comes to scientifically proven health benefits. What these new findings demonstrate is that each proprietary source of yeast beta glucan is structurally different,” said Donald Cox, research and development director at Kerry, which manufactures Wellmune, one of the beta-glucan ingredients subject to the study. “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. 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.”


  1. Boutros JA et al. “Comparison of structural differences between yeast β-glucan sourced from different strains of saccharomyces cerevisiae and processed using proprietary manufacturing processes.” Food Chemistry, vol. 367 (2022): 130708