A Brief Timeline of Ben Carson and Glyconutrients

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Courtesy of Gideon Resnick at the Daily Beast, here’s a fascinating timeline of Ben Carson talking about his prostate cancer, which was diagnosed in mid-2002 and surgically removed in August 2002.

November 2002, on the 700 Club:

CARSON: What we eat, how we treat our bodies, what we do to strengthen or to weaken our immune systems. We need to pay a lot more attention to preventive medicine—not so much to radiating, poisoning and cutting.

TERRY MEEUWSEN: Has going through what you’ve just gone through and sensing the truth of what you just talked about, has that changed the way that you live?

CARSON: Oh absolutely. I have changed my diet significantly.

January 2003, in Ebony:

Carson believes there is cause for great concern. “There certainly seems to be some dietary connection to cancer rates….And clearly there are environmental issues. Pesticides, water contamination, the list goes on and on.”…Carson changed his diet to include mostly organic fruits and vegetables.

2003 or early 2004: Carson is booked to speak at the annual sales conference of Mannatech Inc., a multilevel marketer of glyconutrient supplements.

February 2004, in the Dallas Weekly:

The father of one of Dr. Carson’s patients told him about a ten year-old company based in Coppell, Texas which had secured world-wide patent rights to a food supplement known as a glyconutrient….Dr. Carson then contacted Dr. Reg McDaniel, an authority in glyconutrients and medical director of Manna Relief Inc….“The science made sense to me,” Dr. Carson said. “God gave us (in plants) what we need to remain healthy,” he said. “In today’s world our food chain is depleted of nutrients and our environment has helped destroy what God gave us.”

March 2004, in Carson’s keynote address for Mannatech Inc.:

One of the fathers of one of my patients asked me if I had ever heard anything about glyconutrients. And I said, well, I’ve certainly heard the term, but I didn’t know anything specific about them. He gave me the website, and I subsequently contacted Dr. Reg [Reginald McDaniel, medical director of Mannatech], and we had quite a conversation about….possibilities. And he sent me some product and prescribed a regimen. And I started taking the product, and within about three weeks my symptoms went away.

August 2004, in a Mannatech press release

Mannatech, Incorporated (NASDAQ: MTEX) today announced record sales and net income for its second quarter ended June 30, 2004. For the three months ended June 30, 2004, net sales reached $74.3 million, which was an increase of 59.8% from $46.5 million for the same period in 2003 and net income increased by 376.1% to $5.6 million.

July 2007, in a Texas AG press release:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today charged Coppell-based Mannatech, Inc., its owner, Samuel L. Caster, and several related entities with operating an illegal marketing scheme in violation of state law….Texans will not tolerate illegal marketing schemes that prey upon the sick and unsuspecting, Attorney General Abbott said.

….According to investigators, the defendants encourage product user testimonials that tout their supplements’ alleged healing effects. These exaggerated testimonials, along with misleading before and after photos, are displayed prominently in seminar booths, brochures, videos, sales associates’ personal Web sites and training materials. Together, these marketing techniques mislead consumers into believing that the supplements dramatically cure or treat serious illnesses.

….In fact, the company’s health claims are not supported by legitimate scientific studies, nor are its products approved as drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

September 2007, Ronald Schnaar and Hudson Freeze publish A “Glyconutrient Sham” in the journal Glycobiology:

Faith leads many to Mannatech, and that faith, combined with desperation and lack of tools to judge the claims of the company and its associates, can be a powerful basis for glyconutrient sales….We feel that glycobiologists do have a responsibility to serve the public by speaking out against claims of glyconutrient therapeutic efficacy, often based on legitimate glycobiology discoveries, when there is a lack of credible clinical data to support such claims.

2011, Carson speaks again at Mannatech’s annual sales conference, as recounted by the Wall Street Journal:

He got a round of applause by telling Mannatech associates that the company had donated funds to help him get a coveted endowed post at Johns Hopkins Medicine, according to a video of the event.

“Well three years ago I had an endowed chair bestowed upon me,” Mr. Carson said in his “Keynote Address” at a 2011 Mannatech convention. “And uh, it requires $2.5 million to do an endowed chair and I’m proud to say that part of that $2.5 million came from Mannatech.”

Despite the fact that this was a prepared address at a Mannatech conference, his campaign now says he “simply got things mixed up” and Mannatech never provided any funding for his endowed chair.

Fascinating, no? In 2002 and 2003 Carson talks repeatedly about diet and immune system issues, but for some reason fails to mention glyconutrients. Then he signs up to speak at Mannatech’s 2004 sales conference. Almost immediately, he starts mentioning glyconutrients and claims he began taking them within weeks of his cancer diagnosis. Mannatech’s sales soar after Carson’s implicit endorsement. Three years later Mannatech is sued by the Texas attorney general for making unproven health claims, and scientists call Mannatech’s work a “sham.” Nevertheless, Carson continues his association with Mannatech: apparently accepting funding from them for an endowed chair; speaking at their sales conference in 2011 and 2013; appearing in promotional materials on their website; and appearing in a PBS special touting glyconutrients.

May 2015: Carson announces he will run for president.

October 2015:

In a Republican debate, Carson flatly says he has no association with the company:

I didn’t have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda. I did a couple of speeches for them, I do speeches for other people. They were paid speeches. It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of a relationship with them.”

And that brings us up to date.


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