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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 [1]. (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 [2], lawsuits [3], and scathing breakdowns [4] 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 [5] 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 [6]

The Top 10 Wost Health Scams [7]

Colloidal Silver: It’s a Scam [8]

Why Homeopathy Is Bad Science [9]

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