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Why should beta-1,3/1,6-glucans be displayed in Mycotherapy

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    Why should beta-1,3/1,6-glucans be displayed in Mycotherapy

    Beta-glucans are polysaccharides, i.e. long chains of sugars (carbohydrates) that are linked together by beta-glycosidic bonds. In nature, beta-glucans are mainly found in the cell walls of fungi, yeast, algae and bacteria, as well as in certain cereals such as oats and barley.The large family of beta-glucans is known for its beneficial impacts on health. However, within this family, variations exist and these variations are linked to different health effects. In other words, a product mentioning only the presence of beta-glucans does not guarantee the desired result.When it comes to Mycotherapy, certain notions relating to beta-glucans are necessary to understand in order to distinguish a quality product from others. We take stock of the situation in this article.


    In fungi, polysaccharides contain different types of glycosidic linkages and are therefore grouped into beta-glucans, alpha-glucans and heteroglycans. Of the beta-glucans, the most commonly found are the beta-1,3/1,6-glucans.

    Behind this somewhat barbaric name lies a molecule that forms the cell wall of fungi. Beta-1,3/1,6-glucans are so called because they consist of a main chain of glucose linked by β-1,3 and β-1,6 bonds. This type of beta-glucans have a particular three-dimensional structure and molecular weight that are responsible for their biological activities.

    Providing the best natural hydration and active ingredients of medicinal interest to balance the skin, help it to heal and repair the damage caused by the passage of time, external aggressions, abrasive treatments, etc.

    Specifically, only beta-1,3/1,6-glucans have been shown to stimulate the activity of immune cells, including macrophages, NK cells, T cells and B cells. They are thus considered natural biological response modifiers (BRMs). They also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease and other disorders related to oxidative stress.

    Outside the fungal kingdom, other beta-glucans exist, but these differ in structure. For example, cereal beta-glucans are made up of sugars (like fungi) but linked together by β-1,3 and β-1,4 bonds. Although the difference may not seem significant, the health properties are not the same. To date, cereal beta-glucan has not been shown to affect the immune system!


    At first sight, to find your way among beta-glucans, it would be enough to check the source (cereals, mushrooms…) in order to conclude on the effects… But no! The problem is that in Mycotherapy, mushrooms and cereals are closely linked.

    Indeed, cereals are among the substrates commonly used for the cultivation of mushrooms. This is due to the metabolism of fungi. As heterotrophic organisms (which feed on organic matter), they draw their energy from the substrate thanks to the mycelium.

    Once the substrate is fully colonised, i.e. completely engulfed by the mycelium, the sporophores (the ‘fruit’) start to grow. Thereafter, when harvesting, the grower has two options:

    • or collect only the sporophore, in which case the substrate is not collected.
    • or collect the sporophore AND the mycelium (or only the mycelium). In this case, it is impossible to separate the mycelium from a solid substrate! The resulting food supplement is therefore made up of mushroom AND cereal.

    While in the first case only fungal beta-glucans are included, the second case is problematic as both types of beta-glucans are included in the formulation.


    The presence of both cereals and beta-glucans in the final formulation raises several major issues for the consumer.


    The first problem lies in the consumer’s price for a Mycotherapy product that contains cereals. Indeed, there is a significant difference between the cost of a 100% fungus-based product (sporophore or mycelium grown on a liquid substrate) and one that incorporates substrate (or excipients) into its formula (mycelium, biomass). To give you an idea, the production cost of one ton of oats can vary between £200  and £400, while that of Reishi can cost 10 times more! On the other hand, the inclusion of cereals in the formulation is sometimes specified in the composition but is very often overlooked. A hybrid formula is rather an opportunity for the producer to inflate his margins by aligning his prices with the rest of the competition.


    The second problem relates to the communication of the product. In recent years, arguments that do not protect the consumer have become commonplace: the polysaccharide and beta-glucan content. All cereals contain polysaccharides (between 60-80%) and beta-glucans (between 3-7% for oats). Following the extraction of polysaccharides from fungal and cereal sources, the concentration and purification processes used allow high levels to be reached in analyses, even when the polysaccharides are not fungal. This makes it easy for an unscrupulous producer to cheat his partners by issuing “falsely true” analysis reports. There will indeed be polysaccharides and beta-glucans in the formula, but only those from cereals or excipients (such as maltodextrin). Although it is difficult to quantify the extent to which these practices exist, the findings of research teams on the subject are chilling.

    A first study, published in 2017 in the prestigious journal Nature, indicated that out of 19 dietary supplements supposed to contain Reishi, only 5 actually had ß-1,3/1,6-D-glucans. The absence of this mushroom-specific compound indicates that almost 75% of the products are free of it.

    A second study, published in 2023, compared the composition of labelled products with genetic analysis of the products. This time, the authors found that only 6/19 products had a composition consistent with their labels.


    What is most serious for the industry – beyond the moral damage – is the physical damage that these practices cause to consumers. It is certain that products that do not contain fungal bioactive molecules will never provide the expected effects.

    What is more, offenders unfortunately have a free hand to continue to offer their bad products because there is no obligation for manufacturers to provide qualitative or quantitative analyses to regulatory authorities.


    At Hifas da Terra, experts in Mycotherapy, the quality, safety and effectiveness of our products are at the heart of our concerns. Therefore, our products’ fungal strains come from our own Fongitech (fungal strain bank). Each of them is studied and selected by our R&D&I team for their characteristics in bioactive molecules before being used in our extracts.

    At Hifas, we display the quantities of specific active ingredients of mushrooms such as lentinan (a beta-1,3/1,6-D-glucan from Shiitake) and grifolan (a beta-1,3)-(1,6)-D-glucan from Maitake).

    In order to guarantee a constant and repeatable content of active ingredients in each production batch, all our extracts are standardised.

    Only through standardisation can the reproducibility of the health effect of the food supplement be ensured. To ensure this quality, we carry out up to three controls throughout the manufacturing process.

    In addition, standardisation allows us to display a detailed composition of bioactive molecules. For example, the Mico-Mix (standardised concentrated extract of Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake) displays the amount of lentinan and grifolan in the capsules.

    For more information on our quality system, please visit our quality page.

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