Could Beta-Glucan Be the Key to Weight Loss?

Could Beta-Glucan Be the Key to Weight Loss?

You’ve decided that now is the time. You want to lose weight and feel better about yourself, and this time nothing will stop you.

You’re already planning your shopping list and researching the best, healthiest foods to support your goals. Get this right and you’re well on your way.

Beta-glucan – a soluble fiber found in oats and barley – has long been thought of as a health food. It decreases your chances of heart disease and improves metabolic health. It’s an all-round great food to have in your locker.

But does beta-glucan help with weight loss?

In this article we take a look…

What is Beta-Glucan?

Beta-glucans (β-g) are naturally occurring polysaccharide sugars that make up the cell walls of yeast, algae and fungi. More commonly though you’ll find it in cereal foods such as oats and barley. 

It is a type of soluble fiber that has the ability to absorb water. It has a viscosity and thickness that can directly influence digestion – It basically keeps you feeling full for long periods of time.

β-glucan can be found in many oat-based products. Unprocessed and untreated varieties naturally have the highest amounts of β-g, with processed cereals having much less.

What is Fiber?

Dietary fiber plays an important role in maintaining digestive health and is typically classified on polymer length as well as solubility.

The main two you need to know about here are insoluble and soluble.

  • Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to your stools and delays gut transit time
  • Soluble fiber: This type of fiber absorbs water to form a soft and sticky gel similar to wallpaper paste.

The average American just doesn’t get enough fiber in their diet to optimize health – only ~15 g per day. The American Heart Association [1] suggest that you should obtain double this amount – 25-30 g per day [1].

This is based on a general recommendation that for every 1000 calories you eat, you should consume ~14 g of fiber.

Improve Your Health with Beta-glucan

Beta-glucan is full of bioactive compounds that play a primary role in functional health. It is considered to be so important for overall well-being that many products are having it added in to boost its effectiveness (and of course sales).

As a bonus it is a relatively inexpensive by-product of milling so is easy to get hold of.

Beta-glucans and the immune system

Beta-glucans bind to immune cells and helps them fight invading pathogens, inflammation markers and bacteria. This biological response helps to target and then destroy unwanted visitors by gently nudging immune cells into action.

This means that it has both anti-tumor and anti-microbial proprieties making it a potent booster for immune health [2].

Reduced cholesterol and heart disease risk

High cholesterol is a primary but modifiable risk factor for heart disease. It speeds up how much fatty build up there is in your arteries and this leads to atherosclerosis – a type of artery disease. Once blood flow to your heart is reduced it can lead to a heart attack.

Oats have long been considered an important regulator of blood lipids. The link between the two is so strong that in 1997 the FDA approved food-package health claims stating that a diet high in soluble fiber can reduce cholesterol and therefore heart disease. 

And research suggests that this is down to the specific properties of beta-glucan content which acts as a sponge, absorbing cholesterol and removing it from the bloodstream [3].

A large study published in Archives of Internal Medicine [4] found that consuming more than 15.9 g per day of dietary fiber resulted in a 12% lower risk of heart disease and an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, when compared with those who consumed fewer than 7.7 g.

Regulates Blood sugar

Beta-glucan has been found to positively impact both blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Numerous studies have shown that soluble fiber slows down the passing of food through your digestive tract, delaying how quickly sugar enters the bloodstream.

This means that blood glucose doesn’t spike as high and can be absorbed much more gradually [5].

How Does Beta-glucan Support Weight Loss?

There are a number of independent research studies showing that beta-glucan can support weight management.

For example, a study published by Li et al in the journal Nutrients [6] found that short-term intake of oats helped a group of nearly 300 overweight men and women lose significant amounts of weight. 

In the study, the volunteers were split into four groups for a 30-day period:

  • Low fat, high fiber with cereals
  • Low fat, high fiber with 50 g oats – 4.4 g fiber
  • Low fat, high fiber with 100 g oats – 8.7 g fiber
  • Control group

Post-meal blood glucose was lower in the 50 g oats group compared to the cereal and control groups, and even lower in the 100 g group – a term they call ‘dose dependent’. The same pattern was seen for measures of cholesterol too.

Both oat groups saw a significant reduction in weight, but interestingly the 50 g group saw the biggest drop in belly fat.

Similar to the fat loss nutrient glucomannan, beta-glucan is said to help with weight loss by increasing satiety – it helps to keep you feeling full, therefore reducing overall calorie consumption.

This theory was tested in another study, this time published in Molecular Nutrition [7].

In the study, 14 overweight volunteers were given a range of different breakfasts.

Dietary intake was measured after four hours and blood was collected to analyze glucose levels, as well as important hormones that regulate hunger called leptin and ghrelin

The oats were found to optimize blood sugar much better than refined cereals. Not only that but oats decreased subsequent meal intake by more than 400kJ.

Oats contain additional fat burning nutrients too

Unrefined oats not only contain beta-glucan but also other weight optimizing nutrients such as zinc and B vitamins – the exact nutrients found in Instant Knockout.

They are also high in a number of other health-boosting nutrients such as protein, selenium, iron and manganese.

Key Point: Beta-glucan has been shown to help with weight management. It is worth noting though that the best weight loss results used whole-food oats, not a beta-glucan supplement.

Should You Use a Beta-glucan Supplement?

As you’d expect, many supplement manufacturers have jumped on the beta-glucan bandwagon as a way of capitalizing on the weight loss market. They of course promise that their products will help you lose fat and improve your body composition.

But synthetic capsules are not the same as unrefined oats and barley. Eating these foods on a regular basis not only provides you with healthy amounts of beta-glucan, it also provides a number of other nutrients. Oats are definitely the best way to go.

Research conducted using beta-glucan supplements hasn’t shown promising results either.

A study conducted at the University of Wollongong, Australia [8] placed a group of 66 overweight women on a calorie-restricted diet. They were then split into three groups over a 12-week period:

  • Control group – no intervention
  • 5-6 g of beta-glucan
  • 8-9 g beta-glucan

Although all three groups lost weight, there was no statistically significant differences between them, not were there any differences in waist measurement.

Weight loss was purely a result of a calorie deficit.


Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber that has been found to optimize blood sugar, decrease cholesterol and improve digestive health.

Should you buy a beta-glucan supplement? The simple answer is no. By doing so you’ll miss out on important fat burning nutrients therefore the chances of you being successful in your transformation will be much lower.

With oats being such an affordable food we’d suggest that you stick to natural sources of beta-glucan and instead focus your attention on supplements that have a more robust scientific backing behind them.