Health fads are nothing new. They appear routinely every year and attempt to convince people that there is some new and wondrous ingredient that can do a lot for them. Beta Glucan appears to be entering this phase of its existence with claims that it “boosts” the immune system. Beta Glucan has a number of potential health applications that could, in fact, benefit you, but this believed boost isn’t one of them. In general, you should be skeptical of anything that claims to “boost” the immune system for a number of reasons we’ll get into shortly. People making these special claims for beta glucan don’t necessarily mean harm. They may just be trying to help your health. Try not to forget that people making stupendous claims for a product need to back it up with results. Otherwise, you’ll just be involved in a failed trend that wastes your time and potentially hurts your health.
Immune Boost or Bust
To be perfectly clear, you can’t “boost” your immune system. You can support its function by taking supplements or eating a balanced diet to ensure that it gets the nutrients it needs to operate correctly, but you literally cannot boost it in any way. Products using this as a selling point are either intentionally or unintentionally lying to you about how they work. Some of these products are entirely fraudulent, but beta glucan isn’t one. There is a tiny amount of evidence to suggest it may interact with the immune system in a supportive capacity at certain doses without any exceedingly dramatic results. It certainly isn’t a boost by any stretch of the imagination. Additionally, one of the last things you want to do is to boost your immune system even if you could. Your immune system, unless is is compromised, generally operates exactly where it should for your health and dipping above or below that comes with potential health hazards.
When the immune system malfunctions and begins to work overtime, the result is generally a form of a disease. These autoimmune disorders are when your body, in an attempt to use its resources, overzealously starts attacking parts of itself in an attempt to protect itself. These come in a variety of forms from relatively benign skin conditions to potentially life-altering diseases like lupus. You want your body operating in the harmony it is supposed to be in instead of throwing off the internal balance in the first place. Fortunately for the health conscious men and women, any “immune booster” you’ve taken in the past isn’t likely to cause these problems because compounds that actually provide what would be viewed as a boost don’t actually exist. As we highlighted with beta glucan, these products generally have at least a tiny bit of evidence suggesting they may support your immune system operating properly, but they mercifully don’t actually boost it.
Beta Glucan’s Actual Uses
In truth, beta glucan’s most well-known use has nothing to do with your immune system. It is primarily used in the treatment of high cholesterol. Properly processed beta glucans are capable of helping to manage LDL cholesterol levels in those receiving treatments and helping to lower them over the course of the treatment. This is the must support use, but there are uses with less support out there as well. Some studies indicate it may be useful in preventing particular infections after surgical procedures. Others studies indicate it might help cancer patients live slightly longer when their cancer is close to becoming terminal. Only the “maybe” infection-fighting studies indicate any support to the immune system and the studies are for highly specific strains of bacteria with almost no support for any other uses. Beta glucan does have its place in health, but it isn’t as an immune booster.
Those of us who are health conscious always want to avoid illness when we can. It ensures our immune systems remain ready for the next challenge. There’s always a temptation to keep something around we can take when we feel an illness coming on in the hope that we won’t actually get sick. Beta glucan is, unfortunately, not something that is likely to help you. Like most immune “boosters”, it at best supports the immune system and at worst does nothing for you. You should focus on eating well and living a healthy lifestyle if you want to minimize your chances of illness instead of reaching for one of the current miracle supplements.