Glyconutrients and Diabetes: Is it a Scam?

sugar chemical chainGlyconutrients and Diabetes? Just when I thought I had seen it all. Researching articles to write for this website, I came across a lot of people looking for information concerning glyconutrients and their effect on diabetics. Admittedly, I was a little confused as I had never heard of the term before. Not that this is really all that unusual, but still a bit odd.

I checked several medical dictionaries – nothing.

Not to be undone, I went to Wikipedia. After all, where else do you go for good information? Anyway, I typed in “glyconutrients” and was directed to a page about Mannatech, a multilevel marketing company. Confusion continued to reign.

I figured I must have mistyped the word, so I did it again. Once again, Mannatech came up.

To make a long story short, Mannatech appears to have made the name up. They claim that there are certain carbohydrates or sugars that are essential for good health, but for one reason or another, these essential carbohydrates are not present in our diet, hence the need for their product.

Now, I have no idea if this is true or not. However, I have a big problem with companies that seem to make up scientific names for ingredients and then tell me they are absolutely needed for my health.

Details of what exactly a gluconutrient is, are very ambiguous at best. Here is the definition provided by Mannatech:

Glyconutrients are plant saccharides that provide support for the immune system. Saccharides are necessary for the body’s creation of glycoforms, the structures on cell surfaces used to “talk” to other cells.

Huh? Smoke and Mirrors? Doesn’t it seem like it may just be a sugar pill? Isn’t that what a placebo is?

Diabetes Health

There is a lot of chatter on the internet regarding glyconutrients and diabetes health. Bottom line is that there is no credible study directly supporting these claims. To be fair, this is not necessarily unusual. Nutritional supplements are not drugs and they are not subject to the same rigorous testing.

Moreover, most nutritional supplements are marketed towards supporting someone’s general health, not to cure any particular disease or condition.

The one possible exception may be when a supplement contains an ingredient that has been scientifically shown to treat a disease or condition. Even then, the supplement is typically not allowed to claim it can cure or treat any given condition or disease.

While not specifically related to diabetes, in 2009, the Texas Attorney General settled criminal charges against Mannatech’s founder for $1 million dollars. The company, and its representatives, had been making false claims about the ability of its products to cure certain diseases. Hmmm…

Bottom Line

Look, I tend to view any product that makes up scientific names to be a little suspect. I love marketing and creative sales language, but making up scientific terms and passing it off as proof of the validity of your products is stretching a bit far even for me. For an even greater look at the gluconutrient controversy, check out this site.

By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed May 2013.