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Beano is an enzyme-based dietary supplement that is used to reduce gas in the digestive tract, thereby improving digestion and reducing bloating, discomfort, and flatulence caused by gas. It contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. It was introduced as a liquid, but that has been discontinued and it is now available only as tablets and strawberry-flavored "Meltaways."
Beano contains the enzyme alpha galactosidase, which is derived from the fungus Aspergillus niger. The enzyme works in the digestive tract to break down the complex or branching sugars (polysaccharides and oligosaccharides) in foods such as legumes (beans and peanuts) and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, among others). The enzyme breaks those complex sugars into simple sugars, making these foods somewhat more digestible, and reducing intestinal gas.
The polysaccharides and oligosaccharides found in these foods might otherwise pass through the small intestine unaffected. Once in the large intestine, those sugars may be metabolized by intestinal flora, fermenting to produce the gases that cause discomfort.
Two randomized controlled trials show reduction in gas by subjects taking oral alpha galactosidase. Another study indicates alpha galactosidase may interfere with the diabetic medication acarbose.
Beano was developed in 1990 by Alan Kligerman of AkPharma after research into gas-causing vegetables that had begun in 1981. The idea for such a product was proposed at least as early as the 1780s in Benjamin Franklin's essay "A Letter To A Royal Academy".
Its patent is owned by GlaxoSmithKline which acquired it in 2001 from Block Drug. GlaxoSmithKline is selling Beano and 16 other brands to Prestige Brands in a deal expected to take effect in 2012.
Beano received a US patent (5445957) on August 29, 1995. The estimated expiration date of this patent is December 5, 2014. As of early 2013 there were more than 4 dozen competing products on the market.
Simple sugars are also produced as a consequence of the malting process that eventually produces beer. The complex sugars are not broken down by the yeast, and are eventually consumed by the beer drinker, possibly causing flatulence. Homebrewers have found that it is possible to add Beano to their brew to produce a beer that has a less malty flavor. The Beano breaks the complex sugars into simple sugars, and these simple sugars are consumed by the yeast, producing alcohol (or some acetic acid in the aerobic reactions in early fermentation).