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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Atlantic reports on the Dr. Ben Carson Mannatech problem

As a neurosurgeon (physician), Dr. Ben Carson has no reason to advocate for any particular nutritional supplements, because most of them, quite frankly, are snake oil.  Dr. Carson knows this. Yet, Carson's relationship with Mannatech is lengthy and well-documented, which makes his denial of support bizarre.

In fact, Dr. Carson supported one particular brand of supplements and now he's being asked to be accountable for his involvement with the company. Rather than take the "Haliburton" approacch, used by Dick Cheney, when he was confronted with his position on that company's board, instead, Dr. Carson denied his involvement. Cheney admitted to his support for Haliburton. Yet, Carson flatly denied any affiliation with Mannatech, all the while, until recently, his picture was featured on the company's website.

Mannetech is a marketing firm that promotes plant generated sugars - ie "snake oil".

Mannatech, Incorporated, is a multinational multi-level marketing firm engaged in research, development, and distribution of "glyconutrients," the company's name for blends of plant-sourced saccharides. In other words, "snake oil". (What are "plant-sourced saccharides"?  These are plainly stated "sugars" derived from plants.  A a nurse, I have virtually no idea about the health benefits of taking sugar derived from plants.  In fact, "sugar" is a plant it's called "sugar cane" and it grows wild in countries. Nevertheless, without seeing a price list, I'm willing to bet Mannatech products are expensive and I doubt they produce curative results of anykind. It's likely they're as efficient as taking sugar pills.)

During Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate in Boulder, Colorado, CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla asked Ben Carson, a leading GOP contender and an accomplished pediatric neurosurgeon, about his relationship with a controversial nutritional-supplement company named Mannatech.

Dr, Ben Carson is a neursurgeon and presidential candidate who should know better than to support nutritional s“There’s a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a ten-year relationship,” Quintanilla asked. “They offered claims that they could cure autism and cancer. 

They paid $7 million to settle a deceptive-marketing lawsuit in Texas and yet your involvement continued. Why?”upplements that are plant sugars aka "snake oil".

Physicians should know better!

“Well, it’s easy to answer,” Carson quickly replied to Quintantilla. “I didn’t have an involvement with them. (Pinocchio!) That is total propaganda and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.” He then backtracked a little. “I did a couple of speeches for them. I did speeches for other people, they were paid speeches,” he told the crowd before switching back to a full denial. “It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them.” Then he again acknowledged a role. “Do I take the product? Yes, I think it’s a good product.”

Presidential candidates frequently stretch the truth. Some of them have made fantastical claims about President Obama’s birth certificate, for example, or their ability to construct a giant wall on the Mexican border that Mexico will pay for. 

But Carson's outright denial seems egregious even by that standard. His relationship with the company is lengthy and well-documented, which makes his response even more bizarre.

Carson first spoke out in favor of Mannatech products over a decade ago when he claimed that the Texas-based company’s “glyconutritional supplements,” which included larch-tree bark and aloe vera extract, helped him overcome prostate cancer.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Carson’s relationship with the company deepened over time, including “four paid speeches at Mannatech gatherings, most recently one in 2013 for which he was paid $42,000, according to the company.” 

The company disputes that Carson was a “paid endorser or spokesperson,” according to the Journal, and claims his financial compensation went to charity.

National Review also highlighted Carson’s connections to Mannatech in January and how Carson’s team went to great lengths to distance themselves from the company. Some of his video appearances have been removed from the Internet, but those that remain appear to show a deeper affiliation than Carson claimed during Wednesday’s debate.

In one video for Mannatech last year that remains online, Carson discusses his experiences with nutritional supplements while seated next to the company’s logo. “The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson explained. “And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food … Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.”

Carson stopped short of making substantive medical claims about Mannatech’s products. “You know, I can’t say that that’s the reason I feel so healthy,” he said. “But I can say it made me feel different and that’s why I continue to use it more than ten years later.” (Obviously Dr. Carson forgot his pharmaceutical studies about the placebo effect.)  

Apparently, seven years before Carson appeared in the promotional video, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who was elected governor of Texas last year, sued Mannatech for running an illegal marketing scheme under the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Abbott claimed that the Dallas-based company and its sales representatives repeatedly exaggerated the medical efficacy of their products.

Logically, Dr. Carson is unqualified to be president of the United States. He is a physician, trained in science, who was somehow lured to believe plant sugar was a miracle cure for some cancers. Nevertheless, he then goes on to deny that he had any involvement in supporting the snake oil he admited to taking.

How, in the world of possibilities, can he be qualified to be elected leader of the free world?  To put it simply, anybody who thinks Dr. Carson is qualified to be President of the United States should think about investing in Mannatech. As a matter of fact, I understand the company may be looking for another spokespersonn. 

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