Why You Should Never Drink Ensure
They are some of the most widely prescribed meal replacement drinks by physicians, hospitals, and nursing facilities, yet rarely do people question the actual nutritional makeup of these highly processed, chemical-laden drinks. We know them by the names Ensure, (a product of Abbott Pharmaceuticals), and Boost (made by the candy-maker Nestle). Through aggressive marketing campaigns and deep ties to the medical industry most people believe that these drinks are a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Especially with labels such as “#1 Doctor Recommended” plastered on the Ensure bottle. There can be nothing further from the truth.
What is even more disturbing is that they are marketed to those that are the most nutritionally vulnerable: the elderly, cancer patients, and the hospitalized. People who’s nutrition can actually determine the course of their illness.
So why is Ensure such a health-killer? The answer lies on the back of the bottle. Remember that ingredients are listed in descending order, so the things listed first are the main constituents.
The first four ingredients are: water, sugar, corn syrup, and milk protein concentrate. Essentially, it’s sugar water. 23 grams of sugar to be exact, more than you should consume in an entire day. And the effects of processed sugar on your body have been consistently shown to be detrimental. Processed sugars create widespread inflammation and oxidative stress in the vessels of your heart and arteries, as well as in other organs like your brain. Sugar also decreases immune function, making you more susceptible to infection, as well as hindering the body’s first line of defense against cancer. This is particularly troubling when then these drinks are pushed on cancer patients. They, more than anyone, need strong immune systems to not only fight the cancer, but to fight infection. In addition, when you consume processed, concentrated sugars, your body must release a big surge of insulin in order to bring your blood sugar level down. But insulin doesn’t just lower blood sugar. Insulin is a GROWTH HORMONE, and for those battling cancer, eating foods that increase insulin levels is actively feeding the growth of your tumor.
Moving down the ingredient list, there are dozens of chemical additives, most of which I cannot pronounce. But there are a few that are particularly troublesome. Cupric Sulfate is a compound used as a pesticide and fungicide, and also used as an industrial additive in paints, cement, and batteries. Sodium selenate is used in glass manufacturing and as a pesticide and is added to animal feed. The FDA lists sodium selenate as toxic when ingested or inhaled. Pharmaceutical companies maintain that cupric sulfate, sodium selenate, and other chemicals in their products, when used in small doses like that in Ensure, are well below the level that causes toxicity in humans. I agree that if you are going to drink poison, you should do so in small amounts. But WHY drink poison? How about not knowingly consume toxic substances at all?
Rounding off the ingredient list are a host of synthetic vitamins. Yes, we do need vitamins and those who are battling illness or malnourishment may need higher levels of nutrients. But science has shown that there is a HUGE difference between vitamins and nutrients derived from food, and those that are synthetic. Synthetic vitamins are absorbed differently than the natural food, and isolating certain vitamins in this way can actually be harmful and promote disease. For example, Vitamin E and Beta-carotene (also known as Vitamin A) from natural plant sources such as spinach, sweet potatoes, and squash have been shown in scientific studies to decrease oxidative damage and the risk of lung cancer. However, Vitamin E and Vitamin A in synthetic pill form were shown to INCREASE lung cancer risk and promote lung tumor progression. And when we look again at the ingredient list of Ensure, the synthetic form of Vitamin E is listed as “D1-alpha tocopherol acetate” and synthetic beta carotene as “Vitamin A Palmitate”.
The conclusion is that Ensure and Boost are inflammatory and their ingredients promote oxidative stress and decreased immune function. This causes damage in the heart and arteries, as well as other organs in body like liver, kidneys, brain, lungs, and joints. They simply are not real food and there is no place for them in any diet. There are better whole plant alternatives that heal the body and provide anti-inflammatory and immune boosting phytonutrients. For example, a berry and spinach smoothie:
2 cups frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries)
1 frozen banana
1 handful spinach
1 cup non-dairy milk (or more for thinner consistency)
1 tablespoon finely ground flaxseeds
optional: scoop of non-dairy protein powder
optional: 2 dates for sweetness
Blend in a nutribullet, vitamix, or blender and enjoy!
Nutrition is actually very simple: Eat plants. Lots of them. Every day.