Hemicellulose – A Natural Immune Enhancer?
Share this post
Plant and Mushroom Blend Provides Gut and Immune Support
Hemicellulose isn’t a new thing. In fact, it is as timeless as the plants and fungi that cover the face of our planet.
Within plants, much like cellulose, hemicellulose is structural in function. It differs from cellulose in that it is a polysaccharide comprised of various sugars (including glucose, mannose, galactose, xylose, and arabinose), whereas cellulose is comprised exclusively of glucose. Structurally, hemicellulose may be branched and contains 500 to 3,000 sugar units, while cellulose is unbranched and typically has 7,000 to 15,000 glucose molecules. The specific types and quantities of the different hemicellulose compounds differ by plant and features (leaf, stem, branch, etc.) of the plant.
Well-known hemicelluloses are arabinoxylan, glucomannan, and xylan, the base molecule from which xylitol and xylooligosaccharides (XOS), are formed.
Although hemicellulose compounds, for humans, offer very little to no caloric nourishment,, this does not mean they are unimportant. In fact, many of them have numerous important biological properties. Well-known hemicelluloses are xylan, the base molecule from which xylitol and xylooligosaccharides (XOS), a prebiotic fiber that promotes healthy bifidobacteria in the gut, are formed; arabinoxylan, which contains both soluble and insoluble fiber and also delivers a high level of antioxidant activity;, and glucomannan, a hemicellulose commonly used in constipation and weight loss formulas due to its high water affinity. Because of these and other medicinal properties, as well as their relative abundance and non-toxicity, hemicellulose products have gained substantial interest in both the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement industry.
One property of great interest is the ability of certain hemicellulose compounds to stimulate immune function. Herein, we look at the immune effects of the hemicellulose compound arabinoxylan and the closely related arabinogalactan, as well as the clinical and preclinical research surrounding a particular combination of plant and mushroom-sourced compounds, containing these and other active moieties.
Arabinoxylans are food for the gut bacteria, which degrade them into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs); thus, they are considered a prebiotic.
Arabinoxylans are hemicellulose compounds found at high levels in the cell walls of numerous cereal grains including rice, wheat, rye, barley, millet, and maize. Because they are often a by-product of the processing of these grains for various food industry purposes, many have looked at processes to extract them, adding value and reducing waste.
Arabinoxylans are food for the gut bacteria, which degrade them into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs); thus, they are considered a prebiotic., Studies have shown arabinoxylans are a food source for Bifidobacterium spp. and increase levels of butyrate-producing bacteria, although the bacteria that are stimulated depends in part on the specific arabinoxylan structure. In humans, supplementation with arabinoxylans was shown in a randomized crossover study to increase levels of bifidobacteria, total SCFAs, the SCFAs butyrate and acetate, and to reduce levels of potential pathogens. Positive effects on the distressing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were also seen in a small clinical study, with rice bran-sourced arabinoxylans being found to significantly decrease scores of diarrhea and constipation compared to placebo, in addition to reducing levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker.
Arabinoxylans, due to their structure, are highly bonded to ferulic and other phenolic acids., Rice-sourced arabinoxylans are highly ferulated (containing bound ferulic acid molecules) which contributes to their potent antioxidant activity., Ferulic acid has affinity for biological membranes and prevents lipid peroxidation. The antioxidant activity and bowel-directed action of ferulated arabinoxylans has also led to their consideration for intestinal conditions associated with inflammation and oxidative stress such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
Research suggests rice bran-sourced arabinoxylans enhance macrophage migration, attachment, and phagocytosis; increase natural killer (NK) cell and dendritic cell activity;, and induce CD4+ T cell proliferation and cytokine production. However, in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated animals, they also have been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity, reducing levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and inflammatory cytokines. Numerous additional sources of arabinoxylans have been shown to have immunomodulatory effects as well.,
In humans, studies have shown arabinogalactans enhance normal immune function while in animal models they also have been shown to have anti-allergic and anti-asthmatic effects.
By some classifications, arabinogalactans are considered hemicellulose compounds, as simply put, they are plant wall polysaccharides that are not cellulose components;, however, by more stringent definitions of hemicellulose that include specifics concerning their molecular structure, they are not. Either way, these non-starch polysaccharides serve a similar structural function in plants, and even have similar effects in the human body.
Arabinogalactans are found at high levels in plants such as the larch tree, which we often associate with this compound due to it commonly being the source. Similar to arabinoxylan, other sources of arabinogalactans include cereal grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and spelt.
Arabinogalactans also have been shown to serve as prebiotics for the gut bacteria, increasing levels of healthy bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Bifidobacterium spp., decreasing levels of pathogenic Clostridium perfringens, and enhancing levels of the SCFAs butyrate and propionate. In an intestinal simulator, arabinogalactans were also shown to improve parameters related to intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and inflammation.
There is considerable research on arabinogalactans as immune-supportive agents. Studies specifically looking larch-sourced arabinogalactans have shown they enhance NK cell amount, activity, and cytotoxicity,, and increase macrophage activity and their production of hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide – substances that are important in their response against microbial invaders. Animal models have shown arabinogalactans from various botanical sources also have anti-allergic and anti-asthmatic effects, in part by enhancing the Th1 response.,,
In healthy humans, modest doses (4 to 4.5 g/d) of arabinogalactans have been shown to enhance immune activity, while in adults with recurrent respiratory tract infections, they were shown to significantly decrease the incidence of the common cold, with a trend towards decreased cold duration as well. Supplementation at 1.5 g/d and 4.5 g/d for a prolonged period before vaccination was also shown to significantly increase the antibody response to vaccination with tetanoid toxin and Streptococcus pneumoniae, respectively, when compared to placebo.,
Blended hemicellulose compound (BHCC)
A hemicellulose blend from a combination of Asian rice, barley, Chinese and purple yam, European olive, reishi, shiitake, hen-of-the-woods, and split gill mushrooms has been shown to have immune-supportive effects.
A particular blended hemicellulose complex (BHCC) has been the topic of multiple research studies. Comprised of the hemicellulose fraction of Oryza sativa (commonly known as Asian rice), Hordeum vulgare (barley), Dioscorea spp. (Chinese and purple yam), Olea europaea (European olive), Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom), Lentinula edodes (shiitake mushroom), Grifola frondosa (hen-of-the-woods mushroom), and Schizophyllum commune (split gills mushroom), it is perhaps not surprising that this proprietary blend, containing a high level of mushroom-derived compounds, has been demonstrated to have immune activities. Containing polysaccharides, polyphenols, and fatty acids, BHCC delivers both arabinoxylans and arabinogalactans. During the extraction of these compounds, naturally occurring plant and fungal enzymes also partially break down, or “pre-digest”, the larger polysaccharides and other compounds, making them smaller, more water soluble, and digestible.
Initial cellular studies with BHCC showed that this specific combination has immune-enhancing effects. Specifically, the combination stimulated murine macrophage phagocytosis, nitric oxide production, and proliferation by 65%, 517%, and 155% respectively. In regards to protecting against excess inflammation, a contributor to many disease processes, on a cellular level BHCC was shown to inhibit α5β1 integrin-mediated T-cell binding to fibronectin (a structural component of our extracellular matrix) in the presence of bifenthrin (a pyrethroid insecticide). α5β1 integrin signaling plays a role in the damaging inflammatory response to pollutants and infectious respiratory disease, and is a contributor to conditions like atherosclerosis.
In the first human study, a small pilot study of healthy individuals, supplementation of BHCC at a dose of 3 g/d for two weeks significantly increased NK cell cytotoxicity, with no adverse effects being seen. A larger human study, in which BHCC was taken at a dose of only 250 mg twice daily for eight weeks, showed a significant increase in circulating total lymphocyte levels.45 While there were increases in T-cell, B-cell and NK cell subsets as well, the increases were not statistically significant. As approximately 15% of individuals in this study were immunosuppressed (having HIV, hepatitis C, or cancer), this lends further weight to these findings.
Although these were small clinical studies, their positive findings, the cellular studies, and the research backing other compounds found in BHCC collectively point towards these hemicellulose compounds as agents that support and enhance a normal, healthy immune response. Once again, we are reminded of the fact that mother earth may provide everything we need to remain healthy, physically wealthy, and wise.
Click here to see References
 Gibson LJ. The hierarchical structure and mechanics of plant materials. J R Soc Interface. 2012 Nov 7;9(76):2749-66.
 Annison G, et al. Low-calorie bulking ingredients: nutrition and metabolism. In: Khan R, ed. Low-Calorie Foods and Food Ingredients. Boston, Massachusetts : Springer ; 1993 : 53-76.
 Capuano E, et al. Role of the food matrix and digestion on calculation of the actual energy content of food. Nutr Rev. 2018 Apr 1;76(4):274-89.
 Finegold SM, et al. Xylooligosaccharide increases bifidobacteria but not lactobacilli in human gut microbiota. Food & Function. 2014;5(3):436-45.
 Izydorczyk MS, Dexter JE. Barley β-glucans and arabinoxylans: molecular structure, physicochemical properties, and uses in food products-a review. Food Res Int. 2008 Nov 1;41(9):850-68.
 Malunga LN, Beta T. Antioxidant capacity of water‐extractable arabinoxylan from commercial barley, wheat, and wheat fractions. Cereal Chem. 2015 Jan;92(1):29-36.
 Keithley J, Swanson B. Glucomannan and obesity: a critical review. Altern Ther Health Med. 2005 Nov-Dec;11(6):30-4.
 Liu X, et al. Hemicellulose from plant biomass in medical and pharmaceutical application: a critical review. Current Med Chem. 2019 Apr 1;26(14):2430-55.
 Niño-Medina G, et al. Feruloylated arabinoxylans and arabinoxylan gels: structure, sources and applications. Phytochem Rev. 2010 Mar 1;9(1):111-20.
 Mendis M, Simsek S. Arabinoxylans and human health. Food Hydrocolloids. 2014 Dec 15;42:239-43.
 Pham T, et al. In vitro fermentation patterns of rice bran components by human gut microbiota. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 12;9(11):1237.
 Chen Z, et al. Arabinoxylan structural characteristics, interaction with gut microbiota and potential health functions. J Func Foods. 2019 Mar 1;54:536-51.
 Hald S, et al. Effects of arabinoxylan and resistant starch on intestinal microbiota and short-chain fatty acids in subjects with metabolic syndrome: a randomised crossover study. PLoS One. 2016 Jul 19;11(7):e0159223.
 Kamiya T, et al. Therapeutic effects of biobran, modified arabinoxylan rice bran, in improving symptoms of diarrhea predominant or mixed type irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot, randomized controlled study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:828137.
 Mandalari G, et al. Fractionation and characterisation of arabinoxylans from brewers’ spent grain and wheat bran. J Cereal Sci. 2005 Sep 1;42(2):205-12.
 Yadav MP, et al. Phenolic acids, lipids, and proteins associated with purified corn fiber arabinoxylans. J Agri Food Chem. 2007 Feb 7;55(3):943-7.
 Rao RS, Muralikrishna G. Water soluble feruloyl arabinoxylans from rice and ragi: changes upon malting and their consequence on antioxidant activity. Phytochemistry. 2006 Jan;67(1):91-9.
 Yuwang P, et al. Phenolic compounds and antioxidant properties of arabinoxylan hydrolysates from defatted rice bran. J Sci Food Ag. 2018 Jan;98(1):140-6.
 Srinivasan M, et al. Ferulic acid: therapeutic potential through its antioxidant property. J Clin Biochem Nutri. 2007;40(2):92-100.
 Mendez-Encinas MA, et al. Ferulated arabinoxylans and their gels: functional properties and potential application as antioxidant and anticancer agent. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018 Aug 16;2018:2314759.
 Ghoneum M, Matsuura M. Augmentation of macrophage phagocytosis by modified arabinoxylan rice bran (MGN-3/biobran). Int J Immunopath Pharmacol. 2004 Sep;17(3):283-92.
 Pérez-Martínez A, et al. Arabinoxylan rice bran (MGN-3/Biobran) enhances natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity against neuroblastoma in vitro and in vivo. Cytotherapy. 2015 May 1;17(5):601-12.
 Kim HY, et al. A polysaccharide extracted from rice bran fermented with Lentinus edodes enhances natural killer cell activity and exhibits anticancer effects. J Medic Food. 2007 Mar 1;10(1):25-31.
 Ghoneum M, Agrawal S. Activation of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells in vitro by the biological response modifier arabinoxylan rice bran (MGN-3/Biobran). Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2011 Oct-Dec;24(4):941-8.
 Son HJ, et al. Effects of arabinoxylan rice bran and exercise training on immune function and inflammation response in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated rats. Journal of Applied Biological Chemistry. 2012;55(1):41-6.
 Chen Z, et al. Arabinoxylan structural characteristics, interaction with gut microbiota and potential health functions. J Func Foods. 2019 Mar 1;54:536-51.
 Mendis M, et al. Arabinoxylans, gut microbiota and immunity. Carbohydr Polym. 2016 Mar 30;139:159-66.
 Selvendran RR, Oï NE. Isolation and analysis of cell walls from plant material. Methods Biochem Anal. 1987;32:25-123.
 Thompson NS. Hemicellulose. Kirk‐Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. 2000 Dec 4.
 O’Neill MA, York WS. The composition and structure of plant primary walls. Annual Plant Reviews Online. 2018 Feb 15:1-54.
 Van den Bulck K, et al. Isolation of cereal arabinogalactan-peptides and structural comparison of their carbohydrate and peptide moieties. J Cereal Sci. 2005 Jan 1;41(1):59-67.
 Terpend K, et al. Arabinogalactan and fructo-oligosaccharides have a different fermentation profile in the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME ®). Environ Microbiol Rep. 2013 Aug;5(4):595-603.
 Aguirre M, et al. The gut microbiota from lean and obese subjects contribute differently to the fermentation of arabinogalactan and inulin. PloS one. 2016 Jul 13;11(7):e0159236.
 Daguet D, et al. Arabinogalactan and fructooligosaccharides improve the gut barrier function in distinct areas of the colon in the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem. J Funct Foods. 2016 Jan 1;20:369-79.
 Hauer J, Anderer FA. Mechanism of stimulation of human natural killer cytotoxicity by arabinogalactan from Larix occidentalis. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 1993;36(4):237-44.
 Currier NL, et al. Effect over time of in-vivo administration of the polysaccharide arabinogalactan on immune and hemopoietic cell lineages in murine spleen and bone marrow. Phytomedicine. 2003 Mar;10(2-3):145-53.
 Choi EM, et al. Immunomodulating activity of arabinogalactan and fucoidan in vitro. J Med Food. 2005 Winter;8(4):446-53.
 Furuya K, et al. The effect of arabinogalactan from coffee beans in an allergic mouse model. 22nd International Conference on Coffee Science, ASIC 2008, Campinas, SP, Brazil, 14-19 September, 2008.
 Peters M, et al. Arabinogalactan protects mice from allergic asthma via modulation of dendritic cell function. Pneumologie. 2011 Feb;65(02):A5.
 Peters M, et al. Arabinogalactan isolated from cowshed dust extract protects mice from allergic airway inflammation and sensitization. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Sep;126(3):648-56.
 Nantz M, et al. Evaluation of arabinogalactan’s effect on human immunity. FASEB J. 2001;15(4):633.
 Riede L, et al. Larch arabinogalactan effects on reducing incidence of upper respiratory infections. Curr Med Res Opin. 2013;29(3):251-8.
 Udani JK. Immunomodulatory effects of ResistAid: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multidose study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(5):331-8.
 Udani JK, et al. Proprietary arabinogalactan extract increases antibody response to the pneumonia vaccine: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pilot study in healthy volunteers. Nutr J. 2010;9:32.
 Weeks BS, Perez PP. The hemicellulose preparation, Natramune (PDS-2865), increases macrophage phagocytosis and nitric oxide production and increases circulating human lymphocytes levels. Med Sci Monit. 2009 Feb;15(2):BR43-6.
 Weeks BS, et al. Natramune and PureWay-C reduce xenobiotic-induced human T-cell alpha5beta1 integrin-mediated adhesion to fibronectin. Med Sci Monit. 2008 Dec;14(12):BR279-85.
 Okazaki T, et al. α5β1 Integrin blockade inhibits lymphangiogenesis in airway inflammation. Am J Pathol. 2009 Jun;174(6):2378-87.
 Al-Yafeai Z, et al. Endothelial FN (fibronectin) deposition by α5β1 integrins drives atherogenic inflammation. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2018 Nov;38(11):2601-14.
 Chavoustie SE, et al. Pilot study: effect of PDS-2865 on natural killer cell cytotoxicity. JANA. 2003;6(2):39-42.
Share this post
Dr. Carrie Decker
Chios Mastiha in the News
Scientists discover further infection-fighting properties of Chios mastic gum Chios mastic gum (CMG) is an aromatic resin produced from the mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus var. Chia, which is mainly grown on the island of Chios, Greece. It has been used as a natural remedy for stomach and intestinal disorders for more than 2500 years.…
Fighting Fatty Liver, Part 2 of 2
Clinically studied botanicals and nutrients for the treatment of fatty liver disease As discussed in Fighting Fatty Liver, Part 1 of 2, the progression of NAFLD is influenced by insulin resistance, fat accumulation in the liver, intestinal imbalance, and inflammation/oxidative stress. Strategies to prevent and resolve NAFLD must therefore not only target the liver,…
Fat-Soluble Vitamins, Immunity, Vaccinations, and Respiratory Health (Video)
How vitamins A, D, and E help keep us safe all year long In this video, Dr. Erica Zelfand explains the important impact of fat-soluble nutrients on immune function. After explaining the difference between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins, Dr. Zelfand explores the details of how vitamins A and D and different forms of vitamin…
Herbal and Nutritional Allies for Tick-Borne Illness
Clinical evidence supports the use of natural substances for reducing symptoms associated with Lyme disease We all are becoming more aware of Lyme disease, as the incidence of this tick-borne infection is on the rise, particularly in the endemic regions of the upper Midwest and Northeastern United States. Confirmed cases continue to show up…
The Healing Power of Colostrum
From infants to top-notch athletes to the critically ill, this “first milk” provides immune and gastrointestinal benefits What’s the nutritional superfood almost all of us have had at some time in our life, and new mothers, dairy farmers, and Ob/Gyns know best? It’s colostrum, the first milk that comes at birth. It actually comes…
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
The link between sleep deficiency, metabolism, and weight gain Good nutrition, adequate exercise, and sufficient sleep are all essential for health and happiness. And yet many of us find it difficult to get enough sleep. Experts recommend that adults obtain at least seven hours of nightly sleep on a regular basis., In a U.S….