Glyconutrients: Fact or Fiction?

By: echarter
There are eight saccharides clustered under the heading of "Glyconutrients:" mannose, glucose, galactose, xylose, fucose, N-acetylglucosamine, N-acetylgalactosamine, and N-acetylneuraminic acid. These Glyconutrients, described as being the basis for multicellular intelligence, apparently form molecular components known as glycoproteins. Glyconutrients are attributed with many benefits. Those individuals who support their use make claims that Glyconutrients heal cancer and the skin, improve memory, treat diabetes and memory loss, and a number of other wonderful things. These varied claims appear to be a scatter-gun approach to marketing, in an effort to attract people to the use of Glyconutrients. What is the truth about Glyconutrients and their benefits? Is there any truth to the claims being made, or are they all simply fiction?

What is known about Glyconutrients? The sugars that proponents of Glyconutrients talk about are real compounds. They are actual nutrients found in many foods, some of which are not pure sugars, but, rather, are carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. The compounds that are attributed with the healing effects do have an effect in building the systems that glyconutrient proponents claim these substances boost or heal. Some of these compounds are also necessary for combating the illnesses or disorders that proponents claim that they do. Some studies have been done in regard to the medical efficacy of glyconutrients. However, these studies were not run with live subjects; rather, they were performed in a laboratory using animals. Some benefits associated with glyconutrients were observed in animals under controlled conditions. Glyconutrient Claims are impressive.

As stated in the opening paragraph, glyconutrient proponents make many claims about their medical benefits. People who state that these nutrients are beneficial state that most people lack glyconutrients in their diets, stating that only two of these essential eight are available in today's foods. The claim being made is not that supplements made with these glyconutrients are miracle drugs; rather, it is that the presence of these glyconutrients is needed in the body to combat certain illnesses and disorders. Each one of these nutrients is responsible for combating a particular disease or disorder, with one combating respiratory tract infections, another fighting tumor growth, and a third promoting brain development.

Where we are now? The claims about glyconutrients appear to be largely based on anecdotal evidence. It is not entirely clear what food sources provide the nutrients that the supporters claim to be beneficial, because these compounds exist within some carbohydrates as well as in pure sugars. Currently, little science exists for many of the claims being made. In addition, there is no commonly accepted operational definition of the term "glyconutrient" at this time, although, as with research, that situation might change in the future. All of these factors make it difficult to know precisely how effective they are and in what aituations. It is also difficult to determine the risks connected with glyconutrients or how safe they are without setting these parameters or doing more research. Regardless, however, glyconutrients remain and interesting addition to dietary science. It will be interesting to see where all the claims lead down the scientific path.
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