Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
For the last 4 years, I have had breast cancer secondaries in my liver. For a good period, Femara of letrozole kept them in check, but none of the aromatase inhibitors (AI) now work. I recently had Xeloda oral chemotherapy and this did very little good. I am trying Arimidex as it is the only AI, I have not tried. Will have a scan in 2 months time. My sister has at some expense sent me a months supply of Mannatech glyconutrients. I personally am skeptical that they can fight the cancer. What are your views on this? I am still eating normally with liver functions at the high end of normal. The amount of products is huge 12 tsp of ambrotose powder and 8 undaria pills.
Katrina Claghorn, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:
Glyconutrients are dietary supplements that are promoted as essential for health and for improving immunity. They are formulations of monosaccharides, or simple sugars. While the body utilizes these sugars for energy and they are essential for many biologic functions, there is insufficient research to support claims that they will benefit cancer patients. Suggestion by manufacturers that these sugars are limited in our food supply is not proven or supported by any evidence. In addition, our bodies produce these simple sugars from the foods we eat, thus supplementing with these extra sugars is unlikely to provide benefit.
There is an emerging area of science known as glycobiology that focuses on the impact of carbohydrates on health. Promoters of glyconutrients have taken some of the emerging science and oversimplified it to support their claims of heath benefits derived from their products. Another factor to consider is that these products are primarily sold through multi-level sales structures.
Mannatech manufactures the supplement Ambrotose. Ambrotose is sold through a multilevel marketing network, and Mannatech has come under scrutiny by government agencies for their marketing claims. The chief complaint is that sales representatives infer that the product can cure a variety of diseases including cancer. Two scientists wrote an article on the inaccurate representation of glycobiology by Mannatech that was published in the journal Glycobiology, entitled "A 'Glyconutrient Scam'" (RL Schnaar, HH Freeze. A "Glyconutrient Sham". Glycobiology, 2008 18(9):652-57). Glycobiology is an emerging area of science that holds great promise; however the commercialism of glyconutrients may undermine the recognition it deserves. I have seen no reports of harm associated with Ambrotose, unless you consider the impact on your wallet, since it is quite expensive.