Beta-glucan is a nutrient found in oats, barley, and some mushrooms. It can also be taken as a pill or powder. Beta-glucan has been used to lower cholesterol and to help the body fight illness.


3 to 15 grams once per day

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Heart Disease Prevention —likely to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol A1, A2
  • Diabetes —likely to lower blood glucose B1-B3
  • High Cholesterol —likely to lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol C1-C3

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Irritable bowel syndrome D1
  • Seasonal Allergies E1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to take beta-glucan in small doses for a short period. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. It is also not known whether it is safe to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.



A. Cardiovascular disease

A1. Ho HV, Sievenpiper JL, et al. The effect of oat β-glucan on LDL-cholesterol, non-HDL-cholesterol and apoB for CVD risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2016;116(8):1369-1382.

A2. Ho HV, Sievenpiper JL, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effect of barely β-glucan on LDL-C, non-HDL-C and apoB for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016;70(11):1239-1245.

B. Diabetes

B1. Francelino Andrade E, Vieira Lobato R, et al. Effect of beta glucans in the control of blood glucose levels of diabetic patients: a systematic review. Nutr Hosp. 2014 Jan 1;31(1):170-177.

B2. Shen XL, Zhao T, et al. Effect of Oat β-Glucan Intake on Glycaemic Control and Insulin Sensitivity of Diabetic Patients: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2016;8(1):E39.

B3. He LX, Zhao J, et al. The difference between oats and beta-glucan extract intake in the management of HbA1c, fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Food Funct. 2016 Mar;7(3):1413-1428.

C. High cholesterol

C1. Whitehead A, Beck EJ, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(6):1413-1421.

C2. Zou Y, Liao D, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of beta-glucan consumption on glycemic control in hypercholesterolemic individuals. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015;66(4):355-362.

C3. Zhu X, Sun X, et al. Quantitative assessment of the effects of beta-glucan consumption on serum lipid profile and glucose level in hypercholesteremic subjects. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2015;25(8):714-723.

D. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

D1. Ciacci C, Franceschi F, et al. Effect of beta-glucan, inositol and digestive enzymes in GI symptoms of patients with IBS. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2011 Jun;15(6):637-643.

E. Seasonal Allergies

E1. Talbott SM, Talbott JA, et al. β Glucan supplementation, allergy symptoms, and quality of life in self-described ragweed allergy sufferers. Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Jan;1(1):90-101.

Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC