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The discovery of a very special group of sugar molecules and their importance in both the structural and functional integrity of the human body was one of the triumphs of biomolecular science in the 20th century. This discovery unlocked the code that underlies all intercellular communication within the body, as well as revealing that the "fingerprints" of the 4 different blood groups are actually no more than the configurations of their terminal glycoproteins. The importance of glyconutrients is still being fully understood.

A glyconutrient is a dietary nutrient composed of a sugar. According to scientific research there are eight simple dietary sugars (monosaccharides) that are now known to form the very words of life at the cellular level. Because of the complexity of their carbohydrate structure, these sugars are able to combine with proteins and fats to create glycoproteins that coat the surface of virtually every cell in the body. Glycoproteins function as cellular recognition molecules that communicate the messages a body needs to function in health.

Of the 200 or so saccharides or carbohydrates found in plants, only eight have been found to be essential. These are:

  • Mannose: Research suggests mannose eases inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. It is also shown to lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels in diabetics.
  • Galactose: Helps in wound healing and long-term memory formation.
  • Fucose: Guards against respiratory tract infections and inhibits allergic reactions. Research suggests the sugar is active against viruses including herpes and the AIDS virus. Fucose is abundant in breast milk.
  • Xylose: An antibacterial and antifungal. It may help prevent cancer of the digestive tract. It is often used as a substitute for corn syrup and sucrose. Xylose does not cause dental cavities.
  • Glucose: A potent, fast-energy source. Enhances memory and stimulates calcium absorption. Too much or too little glucose leads to problems.
  • N-Acetyl glucosamine: Glucosamine, a metabolic product of n-acetyl glucosamine, helps repair cartilage, decreases pain and inflammation, and increases range of motion in osteoarthritis.
  • N-acetyl glucosamine plays a vital role in learning, and works against tumors and HIV.
  • N-acetyl neuraminic acid: This monosaccharide is abundant in breast milk, and important for brain development and learning. It has been shown to inhibit strains of influenza viruses more effectively than many prescription anti-viral. It influences blood coagulation and helps lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
  • N-acetyl galactosamine: Studies on this monosaccharide are limited. We do know that lower-than-normal levels have been found in heart disease patients.
These eight essential sugars are part of a larger nutrient picture known as Glyconutrients, and research is uncovering the important functions that these were designed to perform in our bodies.

These Carbohydrates form combination molecules that have specific functions in the body:
  • Glycoproteins are molecules made of sugars and proteins and they are found coating the surface of every cell in the human body that contains a nucleus. They were created to assist the immune system in detecting and fighting such threats as viruses, toxins and bacteria.
  • Glycolipids are molecules made of sugars and fats. "Lipid" and "Fat" are often used interchangeably.
We tend to think of sugars as being fuel for our bodies, rather than having any structural significance. These special sugars are more important to our bodies than their name might indicate, and as can be seen from the brief descriptions of each of the sugars above, they have very important roles to fulfil in keeping the integrity of out body structures intact. Here are some more of their varied functions:
  • to help retain bone density and muscle mass;
  • to assist the functions of the brain and nervous system - from memory and sleep to anxiety and depression;
  • to help the body with healing by their beneficial effect on the immune system;
  • to provide the means of communication between cells that is essential to most bodily functions, which because of their structural complexity they are well adapted to do.
The different carbohydrate molecules combine within our bodies to make many cellular recognition "words". These precisely shaped words protrude from cell surfaces and are recognized and understood (or not understood) by neighboring cells through the "sense of touch".

A great variety of diseases, including many autoimmune diseases, have been found to be associated with altered imperfect formation and functioning of cell surface glycoproteins.

The important thing to realise is that most of these essential glyconutrients are no longer found in abundance in the standard modern diet. Unlike our ancestors, we now have to deal with increasing pollution together with the declining nutritional value of our food. This means we have to find a way of supplementing the carbohydrates our bodies need, to create these essential glycoproteins and glycolipids that are so important to our immune systems.

Case studies have shown the effectiveness of glyconutrient supplementation in the treatment of some serious and wide-ranging diseases: streptococcal disease, toxic shock syndrome, Pemphigus vulgaris - a serious auto-immune blistering disorder of the skin and mucous membranes, bladder cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease and lipomas, Down's syndrome and asthma.

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Note: The above information is offered not as a prescription or in place of proper medical care, but as a report on research findings which may be of interest. In cases of sickness, the attention and care of a nutritionally aware health professional are essential.

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