These claims are taken from a letter emailed to the NZ Cult List as a picture in a PDF, dated 28 March 2006. This letter was sent before the Attorney General of Texas took them down a notch for their false claims.
"... the claims made [in the New Zealand Cult List Mannatech
listing] are based on misinformation and can result in litigation
against your organization [sic] for defamation."
"Referring to it [Mannatech] or linking it to a pyramid scheme
... is not only inaccurate but also defamatory."
"Any statement that Mannatech is a pyramid scheme is wildly
inaccurate and could subject you to litigation."
While the New Zealand Cult List believes this is quite rich coming
from a company which markets by misinformation, we are waiting for
evidence that the points made in the Mannatech
listing are misinformed or misleading. Apparently no one in Mannatech's
legal department has the wit to realise the listing does not call
Mannatech a pyramid scheme. In fact, it says the opposite. After all,
a 2002 New Zealand Commerce Commission investigation decided they
weren't. (Ignore the rather pertinent question of why an investigation was deemed necessary.)
The New Zealand Cult List does not view intimidation lightly, and
regards threats of legal action as bullying.
"In 1996, Harpers Biochemistry - a medical text - published the body's need for and use of 8 specific sugar molecules called glyconutrients. The research also reported that of the 8 sugars only 2 are prevalent in our modern diets. It also showed that these sugars are necessary for the proper functioning of every cell. Although the body prefers to get these nutrients directly from the diet, because our diet may be deficient, supplementation is the key."
There's a lot of genuine science here, but much misinformation too.
1. It's true that Harper’s Illustrated Biochemistry mentioned glyconutrients: "the reference is to the insertion of glyconutrients into a chapter written by an academic who is also a Mannatech consultant" (emphasis added, from A “Glyconutrient Sham”, also available as a PDF). Spot anything questionable there?
2. Glyconutrients do exist and the body really does need them. But that's irrelevant to the claims Mannatech is making for its products. That's an example of the sort deception Mannatech has to use because their claims are not supported by science.
3. The claim that the body prefers to get its glyconutrients from the diet is very doubtful. The body is quite capable of making them from carbohydrates in the diet.
4. The implication that dietary glyconutrients are effective for anything in normal people is not supported by science. As that paper points out:
Although the claim in the textbook that dietary sugars may be therapeutic “. . . in some circumstances . . .” is carefully worded, and may be technically accurate (for example, mannose in the diet is therapeutic in the “circumstance” of rare cases of CDG [congenital disorders of glycosylation]), the broader implication of glyconutrient benefits is not supported by independent controlled studies. The inclusion of “glyconutrient supplements,” by name, in a basic medical textbook provides a potential sales tool to build credibility and trust in products that have not been clinically proven.
Conclusion – Mannatech's claim is false. Supplementation is not the key, or even important.
"Our diets are deficient because almost nobody eats the recommended amount of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day."
1. This is using fear, uncertainty and doubt to market their product.
2. They seem to be saying we need their products because we're lazy in our eating habits – not a great basis for buying a product when buying fruit and vegetables is a whole lot cheaper.
3. Our diets are not deficient. See this quote.
Conclusion – Mannatech's claim is bogus. A balanced diet is fine.
"Supplementation is therefore aimed at re-dressing the imbalance and restoring the balance between what we're actually getting from what we actually need."
1. It's completely untrue that there is any imbalance that needs to be "re-dressed". Our bodies make the necessary glyconutrients from available carbohydrates; we definitely don't need glyconutrient supplementation – see this quote.
2. Dietary supplementation is also incapable of providing the glyconutrients from the polysaccharides Mannatech uses anyway – they're indigestible.
Conclusion – Mannatech's claim is false. Their supplements are not going to restore anything.
"Scientific studies show that glyconutrient supplementation supports optimal health and well being and helps maintain the proper or normal operation of the body's physiological functions"
On the contrary, the most favourable scientific studies are inconclusive. Most studies conclusively show no benefit.
Conclusion – yet another false Mannatech claim.
"According to scientific publications (e.g. Biochimie 1998;80:1), the intake of glyconutrient sugars has shown not to convert automatically to glucose. The opinion that consuming any sugary foods will have the same effect has [sic] Ambrotose is in conflict with scientific findings."
OK, so I looked up that publication and scanned the contents to find something that was relevant. Guess what I found? A paper that was inconclusive: Availability of specific sugars for glycoconjugate biosynthesis: A need for further investigations in man.
Data in man are too sparse to reach firm conclusions
Conclusion – Mannatech is once again seriously misrepsenting its sources.
"Mannatech's use of the word "glyconutrients" is accurate given the term "glyconutrients" is used to refer to the 8 sugars identified by Harpers Biochemistry as being the key to cell-to-cell communication."
So what? That bit was "written by an academic who is also a Mannatech consultant", remember. But anyway, glyconutrients are real, it's just Mannatech's misuse of glyconutrient science that's the problem.
"Please do not hesitate to contact George Howden, General
Manager of Mannatech Australia if you require further information."
(In correspondence from Mannatech Inc in the USA.)
This is a good one, considering:
1. No contact information for George Howden or Mannatech Australia
was given in the letter which invited it.
2. The experience of Chris Barton trying to get information from Mr
Howden. In a
July 2005 NZ Herald article, reporter Chris Barton asked
George Howden for "evidence that our diets are lacking in
the glyconutrient sugars Mannatech says they are; and for scientific
studies that show that by taking Mannatech products there are measurable
health benefits." Mr Howden's reply was that he was not qualified
to give that information.
"But you're the general manger," I [Chris
"I run a warehousing, distribution and telephone-ordering
process – the last thing I'm going to do is give information that
I'm not sure of to a reporter."
So there doesn't seem much point in bothering trying to contacting
him. The New Zealand Cult List would just be asking him the same questions.
What's wrong with replying to the person who wrote the letter? Or
failing that, to the separate person at Mannatech who actually emailed
"The NZ Herald has been caught out obscuring the truth in
the stories against Mannatech..."
We have asked for evidence to support this claim. The NZ Herald
has not published any apology or correction that we know of, but in
September 2005 did itself report on the New Zealand Skeptics
awarding reporter Chris Barton one of the first "Bravo Awards"
in acknowledgement of the article.
Update: Requested evidence has not been supplied, so this claim has
been rejected as unfounded and unsubstantiated.
"The author of the [17 July 2005 NZ Herald] article
wrote what he did against the advice of his own departmental advisors
in food at the newspaper."
More evidence for this claim has been requested. The NZ
web site describes him as a feature writer. Because he tends to
write IT stories, it seems strange that he would have "his own
departmental advisors in food" so at first glance this slightly
vague claim doesn't stack up at all. We even found a mug shot saying Christ
Barton was the NZ Herald's IT Editor (with a March 2003 article).
Update May 2009: Feature writer Chris Barton has won
top individual honour and other awards at the QANTAS Media Awards
held on 15 May 2009.
Chris Barton was declared best feature writer for
work including an inquiry into health care in the lead-up to two suicides.
The judges said: "For variety, depth and richness
of reporting, Chris Barton's portfolio of features was outstanding.
"Whether writing about suicide, autism, genetic
research or the price of cheese he is always on the side of the reader,
taking us carefully and clearly through complex and sometimes distressing
issues with great humanity and judgment."
Barton also won a column-writing award and in the
finale to the awards ceremony, the Wolfson Fellowship to Cambridge,
the awards' top individual honour.
There is no indication that anyone at the New Zealand Herald is anything
but pleased with Chris Barton's writing, especially on medical and
nutrition-related feature articles; the ridiculous claim is soundly
discredited. The New Zealand Cult List extends its congratulations
to Chris Barton for his awards and the quality of his writing.
Mannatech will be "the biggest supplier of proven effective
natural supplements in the not to[o] distant future" and
"negativity will not stop this company becoming the worlds
[sic] number one in a few years".
Quite apart from the issue of whether Mannatech products will ever
be proven effective, time will tell on this one. However there's some
indication that sales have leveled off in New Zealand – NZ$19 million
in 2004, NZ$20 million in 2005.
"Glycoscience is set to become mandatory for Drs to learn
in just a couple of years."
Clarification was sought as to what country this will supposedly
be in. The reply: "The move is currently in the USA, not AUS.
Guarantee it will take much longer to happen over here….."
Not Aus, and not New Zealand. It seems that many Mannatech-related
claims originate in the USA, where they may or may not be true, and
are transplanted to New Zealand without any consideration that they
simply don't apply here. It's misleading, and something for New Zealanders
to look out for. And once again, it's a claim that doesn't distinguish between genuine science and Mannatech's bogus claims.
Claim does not apply to New Zealand.
"The current health system ... IS the 4th biggest
killer in NZ"
We're still waiting for evidence of this one. Not having any supplied
we've started to compile a more supportable list of the biggest killers
in New Zealand:
Heart disease (30% of post-birth deaths, in 2014 it was more than 31 times the road toll).
3. Cancer (bowel cancer alone kills about 1,200 New Zealanders a
year, almost four times the road toll).
5. Lung disease.
6. Road accidents (biggest killer for 15-24 year olds).
Since cardiovascular disease is preventable it would seem the leading
cause of deaths in New Zealand are, well, New Zealanders themselves.
Some leading contributing factors:
So there's a lot to be said for staying fit and staying healthy,
which includes eating good food and not smoking. Sugar pills shouldn't
be relied on for that.
Follow-up claim: "The quote is a misquote. The figures are
from the USA and are published in the Journal of American Medical
Association, and are official, and understated, according to many
other medical experts. In AUS we have about 1/10 the population of
the USA and we have about 1/10 the same statistics reported in our
newspapers last year."
So the current health system is the 4th biggest killer in the USA
and Australia but it doesn't even rate in New Zealand. This sounds
a bit suspect. Anyone in the USA or Australia care enough to research
this wild claim? Once again, it's a claim that doesn't apply to
New Zealand, supposedly misquoted as though it does.
"The cost of the products are no more than the cost of good
vitamins and minerals."
According to the New Zealand Press Association Mannatech products
costs about $300 per month. A four month supply of multivitamin pills
costs about $15. Does this imply the multivitamins are not "good"
simply because they're 1/80th the cost? Mannatech
would apparently have you believe so:
"One can always find a cheaper brand, but that is always
directly related to poorer quality. It is impossible to produce cheap
The main trouble The New Zealand Cult List has with these expensive
supplements (apart from all the fraudulent claims) is that
their usefulness hasn't been proven. Their price is completely
unjustified, and yet the claims made for the supplements are incredible.
"The WHO said that when CODEX comes into force at least half
the worlds [sic] population will die of [vitamin] dificiencies [sic]."
This one almost defies belief and we suspect the person making the
claim simply got a little confused (OK, more than a little) but we
are investigating if the World Health Organisation has said anything
remotely similar regarding the impact of Codex
Alimentarius which could have been the basis of the claim.
One reason the claim as worded is quite ridiculous is that not everyone
suffering from vitamin deficiencies actually dies from the deficiencies,
and that with a good and varied diet, vitamin supplements are not
often needed. The politics of whether Codex Alimentarius will help
or hinder third world populations to have good diets is outside the
scope of this site, but the Codex will have least impact on those
countries with already poor diets, meaning it probably won't change
a thing. To put it a different way, telling a pauper they aren't allowed
to buy vitamin supplements doesn't make any difference to them because
they can't afford them anyway. When we consider how expensive a supplement
Ambrotose is, the idea is farcical.
A similar (but slightly more credible) claim is made by some sellers
of natural remedies, who understandably fear for their livelihood
when their products are banned under new Codex regulations. They attribute
a version of the claim to both the WHO and FAO: "the Codex
Alimentarius sets the stage for all food trade and processing to be
regulated through a narrow, nutrient-low expectation that has the
potential to cause about half the world's population to eventually
become sick and ultimately die, as predicted by the World Health
Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)"
For what it's worth, referring to WHO and FAO is an appeal to authority
to lend weight to a claim that doesn't actually say anything. A
potential for something to happen is not the same as saying that
happen as in the original (misquoted) claim. Also, it's important
to realise that in cases of "eventual" sickness or death
we're really talking about a deficiency of good food, not specifically
a vitamin deficiency, although that would be part of it. A cynic
would point out that "eventually" everyone who drinks
milk will die, and that this is proved by the fact that just about
everyone who has ever died has drunk milk at some stage in their
However, we have not found the actual claim(s) that this better worded
claim is based on, on either the WHO
web sites. On the contrary, this is on
the FAO site:
Food safety is one of the major concerns of both FAO
and WHO. The dependence of health on safe food has given rise to close
cooperation between WHO and other agencies, especially FAO, through
our co-sponsorship for many years of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Our guidelines for the prevention of food contamination, known as
the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point System, were adopted by
the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1993. More and more countries
are using this system and referring to it in their regulations and
laws governing food handling.
Actually, WHO and FAO jointly established the Codex Alimentarius
Commission, for the very purpose of better and safer food (eg, contaminated
food leading to diarrhoea is a leading cause of child deaths in
third world countries). WHO and FAO started Codex Alimentarius;
not opposed to it.
Claim in both forms debunked. Follow-up comment from another reseller:
"The quoter is obviously wrong in their statement. Period.
That has nothing to do with Mannatech, just zealousness."
"Mannose (1 ingredient) was identified in the early 80's
as a documented distinct effective product against AIDS."
Mannose is a naturally occurring sugar and is one of the eight glyconutrients Mannatech sells.
Wikipedia says "Mannose enters the carbohydrate metabolism stream
by phosphorylation and conversion to fructose-6-phosphate." In
other words, it's converted to another sugar after you eat it. From
a New Zealand Press Association article, 9 March 2003:
New Zealand Aids Foundation executive director Kevin
Hague said today the pills were "shonky" and had no scientific
"Over the years there have been very many of
these essentially 'snake oil' solutions to HIV," Mr Hague told
Mr Hague said the foundation was angry that sick people
and people with children suffering from illnesses and disease could
be taken in by the claims attached to the pills.
He said the claims amounted to "cynical exploitation
of the desperate and vulnerable".
It would seem that if there is even the slightest grain of truth
in the statement it would need much qualifying.
"Mannatech coined the word glyconutrients."
That's strange – Wikipedia's listing
for glyconutrient doesn't refer to this origin of the term at
all (emphasis added):
Glyconutrient is a technical scientific term that
is used to refer to an individual carbohydrate nutrient. As an
example, many bacteria can grow on agar containing various types of
sugars. These sugars would be considered glyconutrients. More recently,
the commercially inspired terms Glyconutritionals and glyconutrients,
have been used to refer to mixtures of polysaccharides, such as
exudate tree gums and high molecular weight aloe vera extracts, containing
fermentable dietary fiber and plant extracts, as well as sugars or
starch. Polysaccharides are large sugar polymers made up of monosaccharide
monomers such as glucose, galactose, fucose, fructose, mannose, xylose
The implication is that the "commercial" use is different
from the technical use. Claim quite unsubstantiated.
It should be noted, however, that the term "glycobiology"
was invented in 1988 by Raymond A Dwek, head of the University of
Oxford's Glycobiology Institute. Glycobiology is real science that's much misused by Mannatech to sell its dodgy products.
"However there was a theory (formerly fact, now only theory)
that all sugars get converted to glucose and then they go down a biochemical
pathway as determined by the body."
This claim badly misrepresents what was (and is) taken as fact. For
example, it is a fact that sucrose is converted to glucose
and fructose. It is a fact that glucose is the main energy
carrier in our blood. It was never a scientific fact that all sugars
are always converted into glucose being having anything else done with them, since such a claim
would be a universal
negative, and therefore unscientific. See the Mannatech-related
quotes page for more about the body changing sugars into other
"The fact is Mannatech IS legal, and has NEVER been challenged
as being illegal, nor will it ever be. Mannatech is so far inside
what is legal, if you wanted to hit a target bullseye, you would hit
Mannatech is "so far inside what is legal" that the New
Zealand section of at least one of their web sites contains a warning
it may be illegal in New Zealand. In 2002 Mannatech was investigated
by the Commerce Commission for alleged pyramid marketing (no action
was taken). In 2003 the Ministry of Health warned Mannatech they could
be in breach of the Medicines Act if certain sales claims were used
in this country. (Mannatech responded by writing to its distributors
telling them not to make therapeutic claims.) In March 2004 the Medical
Devices Safety Authority issued a warning. In June 2004 there was
a similar problem in Australia, relating to a breach of the (Australian)
Therapeutic Goods Act. In November 2004 Mannatech was sued in the
United States "for misrepresenting [a] claim involving distribution
of photos of a child suffering from Tay-Sachs Disease." (Mannatech
president Sam Castor – one of five defendants – was voluntarily dismissed
from the case in February 2005.)
Also, in 2000 an Australian doctor had his registration cancelled
for two years for misrepresenting Mannatech products to his patients.
(He obviously didn't get the idea from nowhere that the products did
the things he claimed.)
Update: In February 2009 Mannatech had to pay US$4 million restitution to Texas customers and founder and then CEO Sam Caster got hit with a US$1 million civil penalty for their illegal activity.
decidedly not certain that Mannatech does operate
completely legally quite clear that Mannatech does operate illegally. It has been challenged several times as operating
illegally in the United States, and been warned in New Zealand and
Australia. (One wonders if the person who made the claim actually
knows what Mannatech is up to.) Claim clearly false.
"You have NO IDEA of what Mannatech are doing with their
network, the tens of thousands of poor and orphaned children they
have helped in third world countries, the charity arm they run which
is helping undernourished children the world over, the impact they
are having on AIDS sufferers or the impact they have on the setting
of world health practices. Find me another nutrition company that
is doing as much or even a tiny fraction, or in fact, anything at
all, about these things and I will be very surprised."
He's right – I had no idea Mannatech was having any impact
on AIDS sufferers – except for raising false hope, that is, and
depleting their bank accounts. Please note that this claim (made
by an Australian) may be illegal in New Zealand. The reference to undernourished children was made clearer by another correspondent.
"Another thing I absolutly love about Mannatech is that they care. They care by running the Mission 5 Million programme in that for every product that we buy in our automatic order, they match it by sending an equivalent product called PhytoBlend to malnurished children all around the world."
First, Mannatech products have not been shown to have any nutritional benefits at all, and the polysaccharides used in Ambrotose Complex are indigestible. Second, sending their products to malnourished children (if true) instead of actually nourishing them with real nutritious food appears to simply be "cynical exploitation
of the desperate and vulnerable" (quote from Kevin Hague, AIDS Foundation). That's not caring. It's disgusting.
"In 1994, Dr Gunter Blobel MD PhD, received the Nobel Peace
Prize for his discovery in glycoproteins have with the body's ability
to fix itself."
This claim has been investigated by The
Millennium Project and found to be false. That page also states
Yes – it is a scam
Yes – it is MLM
Yes – it is a pyramid (all MLM organisations
Yes – it is quackery
"You must know by now that in the last 20 years all of our
fruits and vegetables have become 25% deficient. That is staggering.
What about the next 20 years? Supplementation is essential unless
you live off the land and grow organic and eat vine ripened. There
are so many wonderful components that can help our bodies function
better that come from real foods that are no longer there. In 1952,
a woman could eat 2 peaches to get her Beta Carotene for the day.
Today, she must eat 53 peaches. Your great grandmother would eat 1
orange and today you must eat 8 to get the proper nutrients. This
is all out of JAMA. (Journey of American Medical Association)."
There are a whole lot of claims in here. Lets have a look at a few.
"You must know by now that in the last 20 years all of our
fruits and vegetables have become 25% deficient."
As stated the claim is meaningless. How are the fruit and vegetables
supposed to be deficient?
"Supplementation is essential unless you live off the land
and grow organic and eat vine ripened."
Essential? Not! Supplementation is very rarely required if one is
eating a balanced diet. Your food does not need to be organic or vine-ripened
to be nutritious. See the Mannatech-related
quotes page for more about the nutritional value of food. Claim
"In 1952, a woman could eat 2 peaches to get her Beta Carotene
for the day. Today, she must eat 53 peaches."
This sounds like an incredible claim, but is very easy to check –
up the beta carotene content of a peach: Peaches, 1 medium raw
fruit, 525 IU, 10% RDA. So just 10 medium peaches will supply one's
beta carotene RDA (recommended daily allowance). Further evidence
from the claimant would be required to support the idea that the beta
carotene level in peaches has dropped even by a factor of five, especially
as a change of that magnitude could have a significant affect on the
colour of the fruit. Claim false.
"Your great grandmother would eat 1 orange and today you
must eat 8 to get the proper nutrients."
This is the opposite – it's impossible to check, because it's completely
vague about what nutrients are supposed to have dropped to an eighth
their previous level. Or perhaps she's claiming that oranges today
are just one eighth the size they used to be. Claim unverifiable.
"This is all out of JAMA. (Journey of American Medical Association)."
This is simply a useless appeal to authority. Without a specific
reference it's useless – and considering the above refutations, possible
"Lets not forget Mannatech was founded by christians with the aim to help people get nutricious nutritious food back into their bodies that they can no longer get. ... they truly care and are people of integrity."
Mannatech was founded by Sam Caster, who was involved with selling two fraudulent products before starting Mannatech. Some years after starting Mannatech he was "barred by the attorney general of Texas from serving as a director, officer, or employee of Mannatech for five years" because of his involvement with "orchestrating an unlawful marketing scheme that exaggerated their products’ health benefits." See Mannatech detractor claims below for further details. These are not the actions of a Christian of integrity. Claim sadly false.
The second claim there is the old "food is not as nutritious as it used to be." Tosh. Claim fraudulently false.