The polysaccharide β-glucan, found in the cell wall of cereals such as wheat, oats, and barley, is believed to lower the concentration of bad cholesterol in humans, but the molecular-level mechanisms responsible for such an action are unknown. In this study, we use Langmuir monolayers of cholesterol and dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl choline (DPPC) as cell membrane models that are made to interact with β-glucan. Neat cholesterol and mixed cholesterol/DPPC monolayers were expanded upon incorporating β-glucan from the aqueous subphase. This incorporation was found to induce ordering in mixed monolayers and dehydration of the carbonyl group at higher cholesterol concentrations. These effects are attributed to hydrophobic interactions as identified with polarization-modulated infrared reflection–absorption spectroscopy. They correlate well with the hypothesis that cholesterol levels can be lowered by the formation of soluble fibers with β-glucan through hydrophobic interactions, blocking cholesterol absorption by the organism.

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