Background: β-glucans are naturally occurred polysaccharides of glucose units, present in the cell wall of various living organisms such as bacteria, yeast, fungus and plants, in particular cereals (oat and barley). β-glucans are considered as GRAS and are currently used as texturing agents in the food industry. Alternative applications of β- glucan are the development of bio-based by using isolated β-glucan or in combination with other biopolymers.
Objective: The aim of this work is to review all the potentiality that β-glucans present to develop bio-based films for food contact materials and medical applications.
Results: It was very well described that the intake of β-glucan is related to the decrease of plasma cholesterol and stimulation of the immune system, depending on the β-glucan nature. However, during the last decade there has been an impressive grow on the interest on the development and use of bio-based films and packaging materials. Yeast cell wall, that consist of β-1,3-glucan network crosslinked to β-1,6-glucan, mannoprotein, and a small amount of chitin, are an attractive encapsulation matrix and for film forming preparations. In addition, dispersions of β-glucan from oat cultivars demonstrated to be promising films forming hydrogels, with potential to be used as biodegradable edible packaging film. Indeed, some investigations suggested the production of polysaccharide nanocrystals based on β-1,3-glucan from S. cerevisiae by using an esterification method.
Conclusion: β-glucan was found to be a biopolymer with interesting features to be applied in materials science field, food contact and medical applications.