Beta-glucans - What are they?

Beta-glucans - What are they?

Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide, meaning they are made of a chain of simple sugar molecules. They can be found in the cell walls of microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, lichens, seaweed, various plants, and yeast.



Beta-glucans are a prebiotic, meaning that they are indigestible to the animal, but are used as food for healthy bacteria living in the gut. A healthy gut is all about maintaining a balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria living there.

The molecular structure of beta-glucans found in cereal grains is very different than the beta-glucans found in fungi. Those found in cereal grains tend to have a linear structure, where those found in fungi tend to have a branched structure.



Beta-glucans from medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi, lion’s mane, cordyceps, and turkey tail, have been found to support the immune system by stimulating immune cells. Each type of mushroom contains beta-glucans with different structures, and health benefits vary with each one.

Mushroom beta-glucans have a much more diverse structure compared to other sources. The sugar chains in mushroom beta-glucan contain other sugar molecules besides just glucose, and some are bound to a protein molecule. The chains containing different kinds of sugars are called heteroglucans and those containing proteins are called proteoglycans. 

Scientific evidence supports the use of mushroom beta-glucans to regulate efficient immune responses, resulting in antimicrobial, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory reactions. The impact that mushroom beta-glucan and related polysaccharides could potentially have on animal agriculture cannot be overstated. Antibiotic resistance and consumer preferences are steering the industry towards natural alternatives and mushroom beta-glucans show a promising future in the rearing and feeding of our cattle.



We utilize multiple beta-glucans in our calf products to successfully combat diarrhea and respiratory illnesses in a natural way. Click each product name below to find out more!


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Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

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