OncoLink

Glyconutrients for Cancer Prevention or Treatment

Glyconutrients for Cancer Prevention or Treatment

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Is there any value to adding products called "glyconutrients" to the routine of a patient undergoing chemotherapy for advanced prostate cancer? Or is this another example of "quackery" via the Internet?

Answer

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.