Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Oct

Glyconutrients: a Sweet Scam

There are essential fatty acids. There are essential amino acids. There are not essential sugars. We’ve received so many questions about glyconutrients, I feel it’s necessary to respond here at the blog.

For the record, “glyconutrients” are worse than bogus – they are a scam. This term was invented by a multi-level marketing company called Mannatech. (While MLM’s aren’t all bad, they can certainly be a red flag.) In this case, the entire concept of supplementing with “glyconutrients” – minute amounts of plain old simple sugars – is not only unscientific; it’s just silly. There is simply no compelling evidence to support the glyconutrient claim that the human body is somehow deficient in certain forms of sugar due to our modern lifestyle. Among the many dubious and weasel-worthy “explanations”, the central claim is that scientific discoveries in recent decades have shown that there are 8 types of sugar and that your cells – gasp – use these sugars. I’ve had burps that are more mind-blowing than this “science”.

Those selling glyconutrients often have appealing websites and fairly standard marketing blurbs about good health beginning at the cellular level. (E.g. “When your cells are healthy, so are your glands and organs.” No sh*t, Sherlock.) Please pardon my French, but I really hate to see this sort of meaningless malarkey being bandied about like it’s genuine science. The numerous warning letters, lawsuits, and scathing breakdowns on many reputable scientific action sites – it’s almost painful, really – should be sufficient to keep people away from those selling this worthless sugar pill supplement, but I still get a lot of questions. I don’t normally like to directly criticize supplements, but in this case, I have to speak up.

(This is the best single website analyzing glyconutrients. Do a search on any reputable science organization’s site, or check out a scientific glossary, for that matter, and you’ll see that “glyconutrient” is not even a scientific term. We might as well say “aminonutrient” or “lipidnutrient”.)

Glyconutrient supplementation purports to provide your body with certain special types of sugar that aren’t available, apparently, in our modern food supply. (The important one, evidently, is mannose, hence Mannatech.) The glyconutrient claim is utterly specious. The body converts one form of sugar to another quite easily whenever it needs to – there is absolutely no “deficiency” issue here, period. While we need to get essential fatty acids and the complete profile of amino acids to function, we do not need to supplement with simple sugars. The supplement won’t hurt you, but you may as well suck a lollipop if you’re after “glyconutrients”. My guess is that the lollipop is not only tastier, but cheaper.

Don’t be a sucker.

Further reading:

The 10 Dumbest Drugs Ever Invented

The Top 10 Wost Health Scams

Colloidal Silver: It’s a Scam

Why Homeopathy Is Bad Science

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. The fact that the state of Texas got a 7.5 million judgement against the company speaks volume. Add to the fact that the comapny had a market cap of $681 million in 2005 and now is at $10.6 million 2-27-2012. No other comapny is trying buy them. Don’t use the idea that big pharma is trying to surpress this – they could and would just do a hostile takeover for close to nothing.Check out the founders long history of fraud, yet the cronies at the comany are still taking huge amounts of money out. Not to mention that the IRS has a $10 million judgement agianst them. Placebos are a wonderful thing but can cost lots of $$$

    john wrote on February 28th, 2012
  2. Great Post, great article. It’s very interesting, not sure who it ‘totally’ right, however SUGAR is bad business, We get enough sugar in our diets, in fact too much. I cannot understand anything would be good by suplimenting sugar! It sounds like another MLM coming up with a clever name to make it sound legit & scientific.

    Bernie T. wrote on July 9th, 2012
  3. Interesting article, well written.

    Bernie T. wrote on July 9th, 2012
  4. I used to follow your advice Mark but this article was a complete FAIL. You got owned – you need to research more before you try to tackle something you have no idea about.

    Gary wrote on July 26th, 2012
  5. Mannatech doesn’t claim to cure shit nor pretend to be a pharmaceutical company. So doesn’t do companies of sugary protein powder for bodybuilders.
    You won’t see those companies being trashed completely into the ground.

    Everytime Big Pharma is going to war is because they feel threatened. Otherwise they wouldnt give a fuk.

    Oooh its not FDA approved!
    You mean the same FDA that approved Aspertame and Fluoride in the water.

    Rob wrote on June 29th, 2013
  6. I started taking glyconutrients in 2004 when I was 28 years old. I had arthritis in my left hand, to the point where I couldn’t shake someone’s hand without my knees buckling. I also had tennis elbow in my right arm, so much so that I couldn’t fully extend my arm and it was tender to the touch. I had tried doctor prescribed remedies (or medications) for both, and nothing did the trick. I tried glyconutrients in Dec 2004 and my pains were relieved within 2 months. I’ve been on glyconutrients for almost 9 years now and I still suffer little to no pain from these ailments. During that time, I’ve had three extremely healthy pregnancies and children, and I attribute a lot of that to glyconutrients. Say what you will, but I wholeheartedly believe glyconutrients have improved my life and have made me (and my family) a lot healthier!

    Jennifer wrote on November 14th, 2013
  7. I don’t take Mannatech, and understand that it is difficult to make money in network marketing, but it can and is being done. You have to apply yourself, just like a regular job, and most don’t do that.
    Does this doctor spend as much time in picking apart the pharmaceutical drugs that he freely prescribes every day? Pharmaceutics kill tens of thousands of people a year in the United States alone.
    The reason there isn’t “science” behind a lot of natural products, although that is quickly changing, is because the Rothschilds and Rockefellers put their money behind the science of synthetic, so big money could be made, as you can’t patent a natural substance. The text books written for medical doctors are written by the pharmaceutical companies. If the money would have been put behind the science of natural medicine, it would be at the forefront, as it was for thousands of years, until synthetic greed took over in the United States.
    This is pathetic.

    Joy wrote on March 8th, 2014
  8. Synthetic drugs have been around for a little over 100 years, and have wreaked havoc on millions of lives. My mother was a grand experiment for the medical doctors, and died on over twenty medications. Don’t even try to tell me that natural doesn’t work, unless you have science to disprove it, which you don’t.

    Joy wrote on March 8th, 2014
  9. Why do u think glycoproteins are sugars ?

    Jeff wrote on September 26th, 2014
  10. The products come with a 180 day Satisfaction guarantee, in SA it is 90 days because the law only allows for 90 days. There is no reason not to try the products. Ironically, everyone who does not use the products have something negative to say. I am a representative because I have seen the results people get when they use the products. The company has over 50 double blind placebo studies on their products, no other Health and Wellness company can make that claim. I can list a very long list of facts.

    These negative comments used to upset me, but I can see that even doctors are now catching up to this. The company will always be with us because the company has a very loyal consumer base. The people that use the products see results and they stay. It is only a manner time before doctors start to recommend these products to their patients. On of the the most famous doctor in the world (Dr Ben Carson) is already recommitting our products, he is a huge supporter of this technology and a product user himself. If you do not know who Dr Ben Carson is, just search his name on Google or youtube.

    Btw, glyconutrients do not taste sweet and sucrose (table sugar) is not a glyconutrient. If you really think that they sell normal sugar in a pill it is time to wake up! It is a proven fact that life cannot exist without these sugars. If your body can’t make these sugars you have to supplement them.

    Also, over twenty thousand papers have been written on these sugars and almost all of them are disease related, the evidence is overwhelming. The company also has an award winning website where you can view the placebo studies Several governments are currently looking at these sugars. The Australian Government invested 10 MILLION Australian dollars to study these products.

    I am not going to participate in any arguments because nothing good cam come from it. The demand for these products are on the increase so it is very clear that the critics are losing this battle.

    Rainer wrote on November 11th, 2014
  11. I don’t know everything there is to know about the science of glyconutrients, but I do know that my brother was diagnosed with leukemia and his chances didn’t look good. I found a source (not MLM) to purchase them from and got him on them right away. Within two months he was declared cancer free and in the last four year, has gained 40+ pounds and has never had any recurrence. I believe in results and I’ve seen them with my own eyes.
    History has told us many times of the words of nay-sayers who were proven wrong. If the author of this article were told that one day there would be a small hand held device that we could use to access all of the information in the world and do all the things a cell phone can do, he would have undoubtedly said it was poppycock… and he would have been wrong.

    Paul Lane wrote on December 3rd, 2014
  12. I’m the 25 year old son of one of the top leaders in Mannatech. Over the years of my father passionately promoting glyconutrients, I’ve seen some incredible things. One of the more remarkable stories I’ve always remembered was the story of an older woman from Northeastern Colorado who had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 20 years prior. She had been in a wheelchair for the good part of those 20 years and had VERY limited mobility out of the chair. My father saw her in a diner in her small town where he was giving presentations one day, went up to her without any introduction, and simply said “I can help you.”

    The woman was very offended and upset upon the assumption that this stranger had any idea of her condition or could possibly help her. Regardless, she opened her mind and a year after being on the products, she walked into our house without any need for a wheelchair, cane, or personal assistance.

    Her symptoms of MS had virtually disappeared…not because we “cured” her, but because we gave her body what her cells needed to communicate properly with one another. Say what you will about Mannatech or glyconutrients, but I have seen with my own eyes the lives of people struggling with health dramatically improved. People love to knock what they don’t understand…The critics told Bill Gates that the personal computer didn’t have a future either :)

    Chris wrote on January 9th, 2015
  13. People condemning glyconutrients have no idea what they are talking about. Off course it’s been scientifically proven!!! Get your facts straight. Hundreds and thousands of people are enjoying better health than ever before – thanks to the SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS OF GLYCONUTRIENTS.

    Glyconutrients Supporter wrote on February 19th, 2015
  14. My Blood pressure was 160/100
    I took 3 pills of berriola( a product of sevenpointvife) and less than 4 hours later my bp was down by 30 to 130/100.

    It also seems the guy writing these articles have a lot of problems with the natural or alternitive med’s and healings.

    I don’t feel comfy with his agenda!

    Johan wrote on March 5th, 2015
  15. Reading all the comments above leaves me confused, but the fact that my wife has been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer leaves me with no option to try anything. As much as there is no scientific evidence that these sugars work there is no scientific evidence that they do not work.
    The people claiming that this technology works are the ones that used it and had positive results, even if this is only 5% success i’m happy to give it a go.
    Treating cancer with chemo has a less than 5% success rate. Nothing to loose.

    Louis wrote on June 17th, 2015
  16. Of course sugar is bad, but you won’t get addicted to these sugars. There are 8 glyconutrients and they include neither fructose nor glucose. Really, Mark, should you be putting down glyconutrients when you haven’t even done enough research to be able to name them?

    Part of the science is that we have technologies we didn’t have 15 years ago. With them, glycobiologists have discovered that cells once thought to be smooth are actually covered with chains of sugars. The chains are what hold the cells together and how they communicate with each other. When these sugars are missing from your diet, the cells can’t function properly and you get sick (Reader’s Digest overview). And our depleted soils and over-processed foods cause deficiencies in these sugars.

    In the ’60s, I learned in school, like everyone else did, that sugars are burned to give you energy. That’s all they knew about them back then. Science advances, folks.

    Chris wrote on July 12th, 2015
  17. For my first time ever, I’m going to post a comment on a Website. I am a health care provider by profession. I have also been eating the Paleo diet for over three years. I just recently started the auto immune protocol, so I pretty much believe that sugar is the devil.
    A very chronically ill patient of mine referred me to Mannatech. This patient has been close to death many times due to pneumonia. Her parents put her on some Mannatech products (I don’t know exactly what ones) and has not had pneumonia since. That was enough proof to get me interested.
    I tried the Ambrotose Complex about three years ago. After a few weeks, my brain fog slowly went away. I felt so good after a few months, that I stupidly stopped ordering it. The brain fog slowly returned. It happened so slowly, that I didn’t even think of going back on this supplement. I suffered for years afterwards. I’m not a Mannatech sales person. I forgot all about this product until two months ago. I started taking it again and had the same results. Very severe brain fog is now gone.
    Now, I also don’t believe this product is curing me. I take it along with other supplements to allow my body to cure itself. However, I did notice that this product has helped me feel better than other supplement I take and I only take half the suggested dose. Finally, I’m not wanting an online debate. Just giving some real world evidence of what happened to me.

    Bob wrote on August 29th, 2015
  18. From personal experience Mannatech products have drastically helped people from small health issues to terminally ill cases. Why have over 100 patents in 24 countries investing tens of millions of dollars into research and development if it wasnt the real deal. been around for over 20 years and listed on the JSE stock exchange (MTEX) the proof is in the pudding. They have a 90 day money back guarantee on their products, thats how confident they are in there company. not to mention they donate this Real Food Technology to a child suffering from malnourishment very time someone makes a purchase. has great info and you can request any more info or questions to be answered.
    Everything is scientifically proven and tested

    Keenan wrote on October 11th, 2015
  19. Direct link to a study proving this article is BS and/or outdated:

    Josh wrote on December 7th, 2015
  20. I would just like to say thank you Mark for posting this, and thank you to all who participated in the debate spurred by this post. I’m definitely going to be thoroughly researching this topic because the little bit I’ve read about glyconutrients or glycomics, whatever the correct term may be, being helpful just makes sense and seems very promising.

    Keep in mind that the nutrition dogma against most natural fats as being unnecessary and harmful has been thoroughly debunked as well. Just as refined vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils are bad for us while the naturally available animal and plant fats are necessary and healing and even essential; it makes sense that even though high fructose corn syrup and other man-made or refined sugars are obviously bad for us, the naturally occurring, long chain sugar molecules found in a varied natural diet may also be necessary, healing and maybe even essential to some ( or possibly all ?) people.

    I think the subject, and the people who may benefit from it, deserve more study before just being completely poo pooped as a scam!

    Many advances in our knowledge the way our bodies work and what the best nutrition is for them have been and still are largely debated. Look at the paleo/primal vs WAPF vs vegan camps, to name just a few. There are staunch believers in all of these camps. Who is right? There are people who claim to have benefited, or not done well at all, on each of those ways of eating. There are are probably advantages in each way of eating, for specific conditions or for a certain period of time. I don’t think our bodies are static. Our nutritional needs may vary both between individuals and for a specific individual based on whatever stage of growth or health issues or personal bodily strength and weaknesses that they may have.

    Perhaps there are people who need, or otherwise might benefit from, a supplemental source of certain polysaccharides. Maybe their bodies can’t properly synthesize what they need, or properly digest the foods that naturally contain them in order to be able to benefit. Maybe they have conditions that both limit their bodies ability to obtain them from food and synthesize them, while having a much higher need for them because of said conditions. I don’t know. I’m just speculating. But don’t you think, that since there are so many things that we do not understand (even if we think we have all the answers already), and in light of all the people who have claimed to have benefited, that the subject deserves a lot more study before you just completely write it off as a scam?

    The MLM marketing strategy can turn a lot of people away from products, which is understandable, if not a little close minded. But come on people just think. Just because someone is selling something does not make it necessarily bad. We buy all kinds of things that we need or don’t need, from all sorts of different stores, internet vendors, and even MLM companies. The marketing strategy for a product should not be what determines it’s value.

    By the way, Mark, that informative post that you linked to sounded like a very long and extremely biased rant against something that the author seemed to have very little actual knowledge about. The examples that he provided, of people saying they were helped by glyconutrients, only served to show his ignorance about the possible benefits because the testimonials were just anecdotal. How much anecdotal evidence do you ignore until it becomes enough that you will actually entertain the possibility that it is at least worth investigating?

    I for one am very interested in seeing if there is anything to this. Hopefully others will also do some thinking on their own instead of taking a couple of seemingly biased opinions as the final word on this or any other subject.

    I do also want to say that I really do love your blog and I have learned quite a bit from it and I enjoyed reading your book, Primal Blueprint. This post just really got me going,though. I had never even heard of glyconutrients before reading this or at least I had never heard that term. I tend to take things with a grain of salt and search things out for myself. Some people might just read this and then be like, well Mark Sisson thinks it’s bad so it must be, and then never look further into and possibly miss out out on something very good.

    I encourage others and you to search this out and see what you learn.

    Spitfire.30 wrote on February 13th, 2016
  21. I don’t buy it, how would they create a supplement with “essential sugars” that are completely devoid in any food? Does this mean they are synthetic sugar? I also got into a heated debate (like this comment section is like) about glyconutrients with an apparent self proclaimed “bio-chemist”. If these are essential and aren’t found in nature then how did Grok survive? Lets put a end to this for good. Either one or two things are true here. One, glyconutients are either found in foods in nature or our bodies can make them ourselves (as mark stated). Or two, glyconutrients are completely useless and do nothing for us. The apparent biochemist I was arguing with fully support them but was also a vegan. Naturally vegans believe carbs and sugar are preferred over ketones. Me, I’m not taking them, doing just fine without them. As to why some people see benefits from them it’s probably no different then how some people see benefits in taking pain killers. Our bodies already produce dopamine and endorphins, but adding extra provide a more efficient pain relief, same with theses. Our bodies already produce these, but adding extra might help some people. In the end I agree more with mark. How many people need these for optimal health? Zero. I realize this post is exceedingly old, but my opinion is officially out here now.

    barry wrote on March 16th, 2016
  22. Inside Ben Carson’s cancer scam

    “The science made sense to me,” he continued. “God gave us [in plants] what we need to remain healthy. In today’s world our food chain is depleted of nutrients and our environment has helped destroy what God gave us.”

    The use of the word ‘god’ to substantiate claims appeals to the gullible.

    Yes, nature already provides for us adequately. Eat small amounts , predominantly plant based, high fibre, and limit highly processed substances. No need for tablets, powders or any other bullsh*t that your gut may not recognize.

    Listen to your body as it’s giving you signals in response to how you care for it.

    In today’s society, the reliance on doctors and how people’s ability to self-regulate has been eroded away is criminal.

    Anthony wrote on May 23rd, 2016
  23. you folks are so nuts, I have worked in medicine for 50 years, my wife and I have taken these products for 20years after having several medical issues at age 50, they were all gone in 6 weeks , we have not needed a dr for 20 years and have not been sick with anything. I had arthritis in my hip real bad, irregular heart beat, kidney stones and gray hair. all gone now and I will be 70 this year.

    jim wrote on June 13th, 2016
  24. You are the one full of sh_t. There is a whole lot of research about glycoproteins. Chapter 16 of the Doctor’s med textbook is on glyconutrients.
    I had a real bad case of chronic fatigue. I couldn’t put 2 words together on a paper because I couldn’t stay awake. I took Coldfx because the label said it was polysaccharides, monosaccharides from the American Ginseng. I hadn’t gotten through the initial doses to build it up in my systems and I WOKE UP. I live in Japan and can’t always get it. If I was out of it for a couple of weeks I would sink back into fatigue. That was from 2004-2014. But now I have been out for 2 years and I am cured.

    Gordon Tippett wrote on July 23rd, 2016

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