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Beta-Glucan Supplement May Give Your Immune System a Boost

Working out is good for your health, but a hard workout can weaken your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illnesses. Researchers at the University of Houston conducted a study that suggests daily supplementation with beta-glucan while completing a strenuous exercise routine could give your immune system a boost.

Beta-glucan is a fiber-type sugar found in the cell walls of yeast, fungi, algae and lichens. It is believed that beta-glucan stimulates the immune system by activating and strengthening large white blood cells called monocytes that prevent infections.

The study was published online ahead of print on May 10, 2012, in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Study participants included 60 men and women. Over the course of 10 days, half of the group consumed a beta-glucan supplement while the other half took a placebo. After a seven day washout period, the groups switched interventions.

During the supplementation periods, the participants biked for 50 minutes daily in a hot, humid environment. The researchers took blood samples at the beginning of the study, before the participants exercised, after they exercised, and two hours later.

In the test that was administered 2 hours after exercise, they found increased levels of monocytes when the participants were taking the beta-glucan, but not when taking the placebo. This led them to conclude that beta-glucan could potentially boost immune function in athletes.

Previous studies have linked beta-glucan intake with lower cholesterol, managing diabetes, controlling allergies and improving the appearance of skin.

Beta-glucans can be found in dietary sources including yeasts, algae, lichens, oats and barley. A high quality supplement is also a good option if you’re looking to increase your beta-glucan intake.

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