©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2009) 8, 509-515
Received: 02 April 2009 / Accepted: 14 July 2009 / Published (online): 01 December 2009
Effect of BETA 1, 3/1, 6 GLUCAN on upper respiratory tract infection symptoms and mood
state in marathon athletes
Shawn Talbott and Julie Talbott
SupplementWatch & GLH Nutrition, LLC, Draper, UT, USA
This was a placebo-controlled, double-blind study designed to
evaluate the effect of a commercially available dietary supple-
ment on upper-respiratory tract symptoms (URTI) and mood
state. Seventy-five marathon runners (35 men, 40 women) rang-
ing in age from 18–53 years, mean age: 36 ± 9, self-
administered placebo, 250 mg or 500 mg of BETA 1,3/1,6
GLUCAN (commercial name Wellmune WGP®) daily during
the 4 week post-marathon trial period following the 2007 Carls-
bad Marathon. Subjects filled out the profile of mood state
(POMS) assessment and a questionnaire style health log measur-
ing health status and URTI symptoms after 2- and 4-week
treatment administrations. During the course of the 4-week
study, subjects in the treatment groups (250 mg and 500 mg
BETA-GLUCAN per day) reported significantly fewer URTI
symptoms, better overall health and decreased confusion, fa-
tigue, tension, and anger, and increased vigor based on the
POMS survey compared to placebo. BETA-GLUCAN may
prevent URTI symptoms, and improve overall health and mood
following a competitive marathon.
Key words: Dietary supplements, exercise, beta-Glucans, respi-
ratory tract infections.
Heavy exercise or elite training may lead to increased
susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections (URTI)
(Nieman et al., 1990; Peters and Bateman, 1983; Spence
et al., 2007). Heavy exercise is a physical stressor that
results in measurable immune challenges with reductions
in key immune system components such as neutrophils,
natural killer cells, T cells and B cells (Mackinnon and
Hooper, 1994; Nieman et al., 1995; Ostrowski et al.,
1998). Athletes are particularly susceptible in the 2 week
recovery period after competitive marathons or ultra-
marathons partially due to elevations in hormones that
coordinate the stress response (Peters and Bateman,
1983). The net effect of an ongoing immune challenge is
a weakened immune system, which often results in URTI.
Exercise stress is similar to other stressors, such as
psychological stress, which can lead to a weakened im-
mune system and increased susceptibility to URTI and
other disease states (Mackinnon, 1997). Psychological
stress can also result from prolonged training and compe-
tition at the elite level. Elite athletes have deterioration in
mood state during intense training periods, and before and
after a marathon race (Achten et al., 2004; Hassmen and
Blomstrand, 1991). Lifestyle factors, such as coping with
daily stress, may influence the immune response to exer-
cise (Konig et al., 2000). Reductions in immune cell
populations, lowered antibody production and altered
cytokine response have been observed due to psychologi-
cal stress (Cohen et al., 1999; Glaser et al., 1999).
A variety of intervention techniques can be used to
ameliorate psychological and physical stress, such as
administering selective dietary supplements containing
immune modulating compounds (Akerstrom and Peder-
sen, 2007; Nieman and Bishop, 2006; Peters et al., 1993).
In ultra-marathon runners, 600mg of vitamin C, taken 21
days before and 14 days after a 90 km race, reduced URTI
symptoms (Peters et al., 1993). Biological response modi-
fiers, for example BETA-GLUCAN, enhance the innate
immune response (Luhm et al., 2006; Niederman et al.,
2002). BETA-GLUCANS are glucose polymers derived
from a variety of sources including yeast, grain, or fun-
gus. In vitro, BETA-GLUCAN enhanced the microbicidal
activity of neutrophils, macrophages and natural killer
cells against a variety of pathogens (Bedirli et al., 2007;
Ikewaki et al., 2007; Liang et al., 1998). In vivo, oat-
derived BETA-GLUCAN, prevented increased risk of
URTI after stressful exercise in mice (Davis et al.,
2004;Murphy et al., 2008). In human clinical trials,
BETA-GLUCAN reduced postoperative infection rates
and shortens intensive care unit stay duration (Babineau et
al., 1994a; 1994b; Dellinger et al., 1999).
In this study, we report the effect of using BETA-
GLUCAN on the physical and psychological well-being
of marathon runners who participated in the 2007 Carls-
bad Marathon. The current study employed a series of
subject self-assessment questionnaires that addressed
overall health status and URTI symptoms. In addition to
evaluation of subjects for physical health, a psychological
assessment known as the Profile of Mood States (POMS)
was conducted to assess mood state. A key objective of
the study was to explore how BETA-GLUCAN affected
various moods, URTI symptoms, and overall health status
4 weeks following a marathon competition.
This study was done in accordance with the Helsinki
Declaration, as revised in 1983, for clinical research in-
volving humans. Subjects signed informed consent docu-
ments after the study details were explained. Seventy-five
healthy men (n = 35) and women (n = 40) ranging in age
from 18–53 years (mean age: 36 ± 9) participated in this
study. Enrollment took place through a recruitment table
in the runner registration area for the Carlsbad Marathon
(Carlsbad, California, USA) on January 20, 2007. The
marathon race took place on January 21, 2007. Inclusion
BETA-GLUCAN and immunity in marathoners
criteria included healthy, asymptomatic adults who were
marathon participants, and a completed informed consent
form. Exclusion criteria included those with current URTI
symptoms, injury, and inability to complete all question-
naires and current use of antibiotics or other “immune”
A placebo-controlled, double-blind design was employed
for this study. Each subject was evaluated for inclusion
and exclusion criteria, and included in the study only if
they met the appropriate criteria. Subjects began treat-
ment the day following the marathon race. Subjects were
randomly assigned, through a random number generator,
to either BETA-GLUCAN (250 mg, 500 mg; BETA
1,3/1,6 GLUCAN; commercial name Wellmune WGP®)
or a placebo group, immediately after enrolling in the
study. Placebo capsules were 250 mg of rice flour;
BETA-GLUCAN capsules were 250 mg of BETA 1,3/1,6
GLUCAN isolated from the yeast Saccharomyces cere-
visiae. Participants completed a baseline POMS and
health log questionnaire on the first day of the study.
Dosing was placebo, 250 mg or 500 mg BETA-GLUCAN
per day for 4 weeks. Subjects were instructed to self-
administer the allotted dose once daily in the morning, at
least 30 minutes prior to breakfast for a period of 4 weeks.
Following the 2- and 4-week administration periods,
subjects filled out the POMS test and a questionnaire style
health log. Subjects were instructed to maintain their
normal activity levels following the marathon.
The Profile of Mood States is a validated psychometric
test, a sensitive measurement of mood in normal healthy
subjects, and has been employed in over 2,900 health
studies (McNair et al., 1971; 2003). The POMS profile
uses 65 adjective-based intensity scales that measures 6
mood factors: tension, depression, anger, fatigue, vigor
and confusion (McNair et al., 1971). The adjective re-
sponses and scores were measured on a 0–4 scale (0 = not
at all, 4 = extremely). Individual mood state factors were
assessed using specific adjective scales. For example, the
tension factor was assembled using responses to adjective
scales 2, 10, 16, 20, 22, 26, 27, 34 and 41 in conjunction
with the specified analysis. Other mood state factors used
responses to other adjectives including depression (15
adjectives), anger (12 adjectives), vigor (8 adjectives),
fatigue (7 adjectives) and confusion (7 adjectives). The
output of the POMS questionnaire is an assessment of the
positive and negative moods of each subject at the base-
line assessment, 2- and 4-week intervals of the study.
Combining the scores of all 6 mood state factors created a
global mood state. Data is reported for each mood state
and the global mood state.
Subjects completed a physical health questionnaire at
baseline, 2- and 4-week assessment periods. The health
log was a daily health perception log containing questions
related to overall health status and specific URTI symp-
toms. The URTI-related symptoms measured included
nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing,
cough, fatigue, headache, general malaise and body aches.
Subjects also responded to a supplement effectiveness
question: “During the course of the supplement regimen,
my health has been…:” Scores for the question were
based on a scale of 0–10 with 0 being worse, 5 being
same and 10 being better health. Subjects were also asked
to record various health codes in a daily log using a nu-
merical system ranging from no health problems to spe-
cific symptoms and rating for severity of the symptoms
(A = mild, B = moderate and C = severe). In addition to
the scaled questions, there were questions that evaluated
the annual number of illness episodes; e.g., Compared to
this time last year, do you feel that you generally have
____ episodes with the common cold or flu? Choices
were fewer, about the same or a greater number.
All questionnaires were mailed to a central location and
transcribed to a central database. Data was identified by
subject number and examined for accuracy and complete-
ness. Tabulated data was analyzed with StatView (SAS
Institute) using standard parametric statistical tests (paired
t-tests). Significance was set at p < 0.05.
All descriptive data is expressed as mean ± SD. Seventy-
five total subjects (35 male, 40 female; mean age 36
years, range 18–53 years) completed and returned all
questionnaires. Marathon runners in both BETA-
GLUCAN groups had statistically significant (p < 0.05)
improvements in measurements of physical health, in-
cluding reported URTI symptoms and overall health
Plac ebo 250mg BE TA-
500mg BE TA-
Subj ects reportin g URTI sym ptoms
Figure 1. Total number of subjects reporting any of 11 pre-
selected upper-respiratory tract infection symptoms. Sub-
jects orally administered placebo, 250 mg or 500 mg BETA-
GLUCAN. Data analysis was by paired t-tests. * p ≤ 0.05
Figure 1 shows data for subjects reporting URTI symp-
toms at 2- and 4 weeks post-marathon. There was a sig-
nificant (p < 0.05) decrease in URTI symptoms in both
BETA-GLUCAN treatment groups after 2- and 4-weeks.
After 2 weeks, 68% of subjects in the placebo group re-
ported symptoms associated with URTI, while only 32%
(250 mg) and 24% (500 mg) of the BETA-GLUCAN
Talbott and Talbott
groups reported similar URTI symptoms. Upper respira-
tory tract infections were reported by only 8% of subjects
in both treatment groups at week 4 versus 24% of placebo
subjects. The most common URTI symptoms reported by
subjects were sore throat, stuffy or runny nose and cough.
Compliance in completing the daily health log was not
sufficient to allow analysis of individual symptom scores.
Placebo 250mg B ETA-
Figure 2. Health score during BETA-GLUCAN administra-
tion. Subjects responded to 2 and 4 week supplement effec-
tiveness question: “During the course of the supplement
regimen, my health has been…:” Scores for the question
were based on a scale of 0–10 with 0 being worse, 5 being
same and 10 being better health. Data analysis was by paired t-
test. *p ≤ 0.05.
When asked how the supplement regimen was affecting
their overall health, subjects taking 250 mg BETA-
GLUCAN reported 38% higher scores and subjects
administering 500 mg BETA-GLUCAN reported 58%
higher health scores compared to placebo (p < 0.05) Fig-
ure 2. Subjects were asked to rate how their health was
affected by the supplement (BETA-GLUCAN or placebo)
and asked to compare their current health status to their
typical health history, see Figure 3. Participants taking
250 mg BETA-GLUCAN rated their health 15% higher
versus placebo; subjects taking 500 mg BETA-GLUCAN
rated their health 44% higher as compared to placebo, p <
0.05. In addition to the scaled questions, there were ques-
tions that evaluated the annual number of illness episodes,
but compliance to these questions was poor and the data
obtained was not meaningful.
The data analysis included an assessment of mood state at
baseline (day 0), 2-, and 4 weeks after treatment. As de-
scribed, the POMS survey consists of a number of adjec-
tive based scales. Significant mood state responses for
confusion (reduced), fatigue (reduced), vigor (increased),
and tension (reduced) were observed (Figure 4), p < 0.05.
BETA-GLUCAN generated a statistically significant
reduction in anger, p < 0.05, after 2 weeks on 500 mg.
There were no changes in depression after treatment.
Observed improvements included a 48% reduction
in fatigue for the 250 mg dose and 59% for the 500 mg
doses of BETA-GLUCAN compared to placebo after 4
weeks of treatment. Vigor increased after 2 and 4 weeks
of 500mg BETA GLUCAN, but no change in vigor oc-
curred in the 250 mg dose group. Subjects reported a
38% and 47% reduction in tension (250 mg and 500 mg
respectively) over the 4-week study period. Subjects also
reported a 38% and 45% reduction in confusion (250 mg
and 500 mg) respectively over the 4-week study period
compared to placebo. After 4 weeks, both the 250 mg and
500 mg doses reduced tension (p < 0.05), but only the 500
mg dose reduced tension after week 2 (p < 0.05). Anger
was only reduced after 2 weeks of treatment with the
500mg dose (p < 0.05).
Place bo 250mg BETA-
Figure 3. Overall health-score. Subjects responded to a 2-
and 4-week health status question: “At the end of this 2-
week period, how would you rate your overall health...?”
Scores for the question were based on a scale of 0-10 with 0
being worse, 5 being same and 10 being better health. Data
analysis was by paired t-test. *p ≤ 0.05.
The global mood state, a combination of 6 main
factors, improved after both the 250 mg dose at 4-weeks
and both 2- and 4-weeks in the 500 mg treatment groups
compared to placebo (Figure 5). The global mood state
improved by 11% for subjects taking 250 mg and 13% for
subjects taking 500 mg per day versus placebo, p < 0.05.
During the course of the 4-week treatment period, sub-
jects in both treatment groups, 250 mg and 500 mg
BETA-GLUCAN, reported fewer URTI symptoms, better
overall health and a more positive mood state compared
to placebo 4 weeks after completing a marathon.
Marathon runners and other athletes, whose ath-
letic activities cause significant physical stress, are more
susceptible to URTI (Nieman et al., 1990; Peters and
Bateman, 1983; Spence et al., 2007). Previous research
reported that nutritional supplementation can modulate
the health status of these high-performance athletes (Nie-
man and Bishop, 2006; Peters et al., 1993). In this study,
BETA-GLUCAN, a commercially available dietary sup-
plement, reduced the incidence of URTI symptoms and
had a positive impact on mood state as measured by the
POMS assessment. BETA-GLUCAN participants re-
ported both fewer URTI symptoms and a better overall
health status. The URTI symptoms reported by subjects
are typical of cold and flu symptoms, and analogous to
symptoms reported in other studies (Cohen et al., 1999;
Konig et al., 2000). Total URTI symptoms were summed
by subject, but individual symptoms could not be
BETA-GLUCAN and immunity in marathoners
Figure 4. Data analysis for specific POMS factors calculated from POMS score sheet. Data analysis was by paired t-test. Each factor
was determined using answers to specific adjective based scales as described in the Profile of Mood States manual by McNair et al., 1971.. A value of
p ≤ 0.05 was considered significant *p ≤ 0.05.
analyzed due to a lack of data. Well-established and clini-
cally valid techniques (POMS survey, URTI symptoms)
were used during the course of this study, while exploring
more subjective techniques such as the health status ques-
tions. Therefore, the results of the health status questions
(Figures 2 and 3) are valid and will be employed in future
Physical and psychological factors of subjects un-
dergoing stressful situations are reported to increase
URTI (Cohen et al., 1999; Konig et al., 2000). In all
cases, the subjects on BETA-GLUCAN experienced bet-
ter physical health and a significantly improved psycho-
logical status, including more positive feelings, than those
in the placebo group. The results of the POMS survey
suggest that subjects self-administering BETA-GLUCAN
(250 mg and 500 mg per day) reported reduced fatigue
and tension after 4 weeks and increased vigor for subjects
on the 500 mg dose. The confusion factor was reduced for
both treatment groups at 2- and 4-week intervals. In con-
trast, the anger and depression factors did not show statis-
tical significance at the 4-week reporting period, although
anger was reduced after 2 weeks in the 500 mg BETA-
GLUCAN treatment group. Previous research reported
that elite athletes training for a marathon experience a
non-significant deterioration in global mood state and
significantly decreased vigor and increased fatigue (Ach-
ten et al., 2004; Hassmen and Blomstrand, 1991). Al-
though there is little evidence that mood changes occur
after a strenuous exercise event, the global mood state
score continued to be elevated 4 weeks post-marathon in
the placebo group; while there were statistically signifi-
cant improvements in both BETA-GLUCAN groups at
the same time point. Our results suggest that BETA-
GLUCAN may ameliorate mood changes occurring after
heavy exercise exertion.
The POMS assessment for psychological health
strongly supported and mirrored the physical health as-
sessment. Illness and stress impact the immune system in
Placebo 250mg BETA-
Placebo 250mg BETA-
POMS s core
Placebo 250mg BETA-
POMS s core
Placebo 250mg BETA-
POMS s core
Fat ig ue
Placebo 250mg BETA-
POMS s core
Placebo 250mg BETA-
Talbott and Talbott
both physical and psychological ways (Konig et al., 2000;
Strasner et al., 2001). The POMS methodology has been
used in more that 2,900 studies (McNair et al., 1971); thus
it has well-established validity. The survey instrument
employs 65 adjective based scales that are scored by sub-
jects without knowledge of how the scale scoring will be
analyzed. The POMS survey instrument assesses the
overall global mood state of subjects and provides feed-
back on specific moods and feelings such as tension,
depression, fatigue, vigor, confusion and anger.
Placebo 250mg BETA-
Figure 5. The global mood state was calculated based on
scoring (0-4 with 0 = not at all, 2 = moderately and 4 = ex-
tremely) answers to 58 of the 65 adjectives. Data analysis was
by paired t-test. *p ≤ 0.05
BETA-GLUCAN improves immune function in a
variety of animal models (Hetland et al., 1998; Hong et
al., 2004;Kernodle et al., 1998; Vetvicka et al., 2002;
2008). Research by Vetvicka et al. (2002) demonstrated
that BETA-GLUCAN helped prevent anthrax infection
and mortality in mice. Additional studies support further
antibacterial (Kernodle et al., 1998) and anti-tumor prop-
erties (Hong et al., 2004; Vetvicka et al., 2008). Other
dietary supplements may reduce URTI symptoms (Cox et
al., 2008; Kekkonen et al., 2007; Peters et al., 1993), i.e.,
zinc treatment reduced duration and severity of cold
symptoms (Prasad et al., 2000). Probiotics (Lactobacillus
rhamnosus) given 3 months prior to a marathon race had
no effect on URTI symptoms or duration (Kekkonen et
al., 2007). However a different probiotic (Lactobacillus
fermentum) reduced the severity and duration of URTI in
elite athletes (Cox et al., 2008). Vitamin C supplementa-
tion in ultramarathoners reduced the duration and severity
of URTI when taken 21 days before an ultramarathon (90
km) (Peters et al., 1993).
A recent study reported no change in self-reported
URTI symptoms in endurance athletes given a BETA-
GLUCAN supplement for 18 days (Nieman et al., 2008).
Beta-glucan was administered at 5.6 g·day-1 in a 600 ml
beverage containing Gatorade® and Oatvantage®, a 54%
oat BETA-GTLUCAN concentrate. Subjects ingested the
supplements in two 300 ml doses each day before their
first and last meals on an empty stomach. Nieman, et al.,
2008 reported no changes in natural killer cell activity,
polymorphonuclear respiratory burst activity, phytohe-
magglutinin-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation, plasma
interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-10, IL-1 receptor agonist (IL-1ra),
and IL-8, and blood leukocyte IL-10, IL-8, and IL-1ra
mRNA expression. This study is different from the pre-
sent study in timing, chemical composition, and dosing
making direct comparisons difficult. The current study
administered the supplement after a marathon, whereas
Nieman, et al., 2008 gave the supplement before strenu-
ous exercise. Nieman, et al., 2008 gave a 600 ml beverage
supplement, containing Gatorade® and Oatvantage®
(soluble oat derived beta-glucan), whereas the current
study administered 2 different doses (250 mg and 500mg)
insoluble yeast-derived beta-glucan supplement (WGP®3-
6). Soluble and insoluble BETA-GLUCANS may stimu-
late the immune system differently (Rice et al., 2005).
The current study suggests that yeast derived BETA-
GLUCAN may be effective in preventing URTI in ath-
letes, while oat derived BETA-GLUCAN is not.
In this study, BETA-GLUCAN significantly decreased
URTI incidence and improve mood state compared to
placebo. Daily supplementation with BETA-GLUCAN
reduced the incidence of symptoms associated with upper
respiratory tract infections and improved the psychologi-
cal well being of participants. Additional research is
needed to investigate the ability of BETA-GLUCAN to
reduce the incidence of URTI in high-performance ath-
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• Beta-Glucan supplementation maintains immune
function in endurance athletes.
• Beta-Glucan supplementation reduces post-exercise
URTIs in marathon runners.
• Maintenance of post-exercise immune function is
associated with improved mood state, including re-
duced fatigue and increased vigor in athletes.
Shawn M. TALBOTT
Research Director for SupplementWatch /
GLH Nutrition, based near Salt Lake City,
Talbott and Talbott
Julie A. TALBOTT
Director of Operations for SupplementWatch / GLH Nutri-
SupplementWatch / GLH Nutrition, LLC, 648 Rocky Knoll,
Draper, UT 84020, USA