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  Core Nutritional Products :: Disease & Beta-Glucan Chemistry :: 

Disease & Beta-Glucan Chemistry
The human body is a marvelous creation. It carries us through life with style and grace. And it is self-repairing mechanism, or at least that is how it should be. But sometimes, things go wrong, seemingly ahead of schedule. Disease occurs. And then we are in for the fight of our lives, literally. But there are options in caring for our health. We all know that we need to feed the body the right fuel for it to function properly. But what about when disease strikes, could there be another fuel perhaps? Something better than what we have been feeding it all along? We all know about antibiotics, and other 'specifically targeted' medicines, but what about a medicine that seemingly supports the whole body in its struggle to get well? That is what this section is about. To try and explain in simple terms how one such medicine works. We have all heard of miracle cures. Well, this could be one.

In the plant and fungus kingdoms, sugars are produced within the cells. These sugars are used both as sources of energy and arranged into structural units which make up the cell walls. These arrangements take many forms, some of which we are quite familiar with, such as starches and cellulose (which is the cell wall material in plants). The particular arrangements of the sugars and their binding with other substances determine the biological activity of these compounds. In the same way that Iron is used in automobiles, table spoons and multivitamin tablets, sugars are used in nature to assemble a broad range of dissimilar compounds. Some of these compounds which have potent medicinal properties are found in mushrooms. These are called the Alpha and Beta-Glucans. (The Beta-Glucan form is thought to exert the primary effect in the human immune system against disease).

These Glucans are long chain polysaccharide molecules, consisting of thousands to millions of glucose molecules bonded together in particular fashions. Alpha or Beta-Glucan is not any one particular compound or structural arrangement, but refers to the way in which the sugars sub-units are attached to one another. Both of these arrangements (alpha and beta) are found in all of the Medicinal Mushrooms. These compounds are in fact, what give the mushrooms their profound medicinal properties.

The designations of Alpha and Beta glucans are determined by the position on the sugar molecule at which the bonding occurs. As glucose is a six carbon sugar, the linkage can occur between any combination of the six positions. Thus when a polysaccharide is referred to as 1-3 Beta-Glucan the linkage is between the 1 position on one glucose molecule and the 3 position on the next molecule. Side branches can also occur at some particular points on the molecule, such as 1-3(1-6) Beta-Glucan (1-3 bonding with side branches at the 1-6 position) which is one of the polysaccharides found in Maitake, Shiitake, and a few other mushrooms. This is one of the first chemicals which was found to have specific anti-cancer properties.

1-3(1-6) Beta Glucan
Stimulates T-cell production

The mushroom Agaricus blazei is the only source found so far which contains significant amounts of 1-6 Beta-Glucan. This particular Beta-Glucan has shown extremely potent action in all tests against Human Cancer conducted to date. Specifically, this Beta-Glucan seems to significantly increase the number and activity of the body's Natural Killer cells (NK cells).

1-6 Beta Glucan
Stimulates NK cell production

Besides the structural arrangements of the glucan molecules, there is another factor that helps determine biological activity, and that is whether or not there are any other molecules joined to the glucan molecule. It is quite common in nature to find proteins and peptides attached to the end of the glucan molecules. This "protein bonding" changes the way in which the human body uses this glucan in the immune system. PSK and PSP (from Coriolus versicolor) are examples of these "protein bound polysaccharides".

The human body has a complex system of immune defense, which functions as a guardian of the body against foreign invaders and against our own aberrant cells (Cancer). This immune system consists of many different specific types of cells, such as the T cells, B cells and Natural Killer cells (NK cells). One of the functions of the Beta-Glucans is a stimulation of the production of immune cells. It is not uncommon to see a 3000% to 5000% increase in the number of active immune cells within 72 hours of beginning Beta-Glucan therapy. Another function of Beta-Glucan is that it attaches to receptor sites on the immune cells and activates them. When disease occurs in the body, it is always due to a deficiency in the body's immune response. By supplying a larger amount of Beta-Glucans in the body, a higher state of immune response is created. This is the primary pathway by which medicinal mushrooms help the body to fight off invasion by diseases and cancer cells. This is called IMMUNOMODULATION. Modulation of the immune system. Perhaps better referred to as stimulation of the body's immune system.

Sugars (and particularly the long chain polysaccharides such as Beta-Glucan) are not produced in the human body and must be taken in from plant and fungus sources. Since certain mushrooms are the highest sources of Beta-Glucans known, it stands to reason that these sources of the complex polysaccharides are the best bet in the fight against depressed immune function and the diseases that follow. And since the effect of the mushroom is to enhance the body's own defense system, there are no side effects from this treatment. This is quite a a different ball game compared to conventional cancer therapy which tends to poison and destroy the body's immune function. (Infectious agents cause more deaths in modern cancer treatment than does the cancer itself.) In most of the world, these Beta-Glucan containing mushrooms are used clinically as an adjunct to conventional Radiation and Chemo-Therapy, to help boost the immune system against the onslaught of the damaging agents used to directly kill the tumor cells.

In clinical trials at the Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, it was found that conventional Chemo-Therapy for lung cancer was approximately 10% effective while the same chemo-therapy with the addition of 3 grams per day of a Beta-Glucan concentrate (from Maitake mushroom in this case) boosted the efficiency to over 80% cure! This is now the standard treatment for advanced lung cancer in China, and has been since 1994. With an 80% cure rate against this dreaded disease, how can we even think to argue?

It was noted early on in the research that LENTINAN (1-3{1-6} Beta-Glucan) was not effective orally and had to be administered by injection. Modern research has found the reason for this and the way around it. In many cancer patients, digestive function is also impaired. This means that the extremely large organic molecules, such as Beta-Glucan are not readily absorbed in the stomach and intestines but pass through unchanged. But as the Beta-Glucans are long chain molecules, it has been found that breaking the chain into shorter segments makes the substance more readily bio-available while maintaining the same clinical properties. One way to do this is to co-administer vitamin C with the mushroom extracts. It is not possible to mix the vitamin C with the medicine ahead of time, as the breakdown process continues and ultimately leaves behind just simple sugar molecules. But the addition of 1000 mg (1 gram) of vitamin C at the same time the mushroom or mushroom extracts are taken, logarithmically increases the absorption of the Beta-Glucans, making them much more bio-available to the system. It is thought that Ginger has this same effect.

Another effective anti-cancer ingredient found in Shiitake is the pharmaceutical drug KS-2. This is an Alpha-Glucan, much smaller in molecular size than LENTINAN and bound to a protein molecule. this substance is easily absorbed by the body and is quite effective orally. It is extracted from the remaining liquid broth when shiitake is cultivated in large batches with liquid culture techniques (much the same way that penicillin is produced). It is thought to be a metabolic by-product of shiitake and is found only in small amounts in the whole mushroom. These extra-cellular Alpha-Glucans and Protein Bound Alpha-Glucans are also found in Cordyceps sinensis, Agaricus blazei and probably in other mushrooms as well. There is extensive research going on now to determine the best way to produce and administer these potent anti-cancer medications.

While this course of Cancer Therapy is not followed in America, It is well known in much of the rest of the world. It is far from being fringe science or charlatanism, and a search of the scientific literature will reveal hundreds, if not thousands of research papers verifying these findings. A good place to review these research articles is on the U.S. Government's own National Library of Medicine web site, PubMed.

Note: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Health decisions are much too important to be made without the advice of a Doctor or other health care practitioners. Be informed, be smart and then make the right decisions for your health.  

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