Beta-glucan is a dietary fibre present typically in oats and barley. The beta-glucan content in whole grain oat varies from 2 to 8% of dry weight, whereas the beta-glucan content of oat bran concentrate is usually between 15 and 35% of dry weight.
Oats and oat bran concentrates have light colour and mild taste and thus beta-glucan can be incorporated into a wide variety of innovative food products. Beta-glucan is able to produce high viscosity in quite low concentrations due to the high molecular size and water-solubility. This viscosityforming property of oat beta-glucan is a challenge for food formulators but has an important physiological impact on its ability to increase the viscosity in the gut and reduce serum cholesterol and blood glucose rise in humans.
On the basis of numerous clinical studies on these effects, in 2011 the European Commission authorisd a health claim on foods which provide at least 1 g oat beta-glucan per quantified portion (3 g beta-glucan/day). A health claim is any statement on labels, advertising or other marketing products indicating a relationship between food or its constituents and health. In December 2006, the European Union adopted a Regulation on the use of nutrition and health claims for foods. One of the key objectives of this Regulation is to ensure that any claim made on a food label in the EU is clear and substantiated by scientific evidence.
The above health claim permits the following wording to be used: "Oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease"
In 2012, beta-glucan received another authorised health claim by EC that is allowed if the food contains 4 g beta-glucan from oats or barley/30 g available carbohydrates in a quantified portion as part of the meal. These foods can bear the health claim "Consumption of beta-glucan from oats or barley as part of a meal contributes to the reduction of the blood glucose rise after that meal".