Ensure is mostly junkfood

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 559
   Posted 8/26/2009 1:00 AM (GMT -6)   
I've noticed that Ensure has been mentioned a few times on this board. I haven't paid too much attention, since I don't use it and never saw it for sale here in Taiwan - until recently.

I can understand it's value to a patient in the hospital recovering from a bowel resection and thus unable to stand any solid food. But as a nutrition supplement - well, read the ingredient label:

Water, sugar (sucrose), corn syrup, maltodextrin (corn), calcium caseinate, high-oleic safflower oil, canola oil, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, corn oil, calcium phosphate tribasic, potassium citrate, magnesium phosphate dibasic, natural and artificial flavor, soy lecithin, sodium citrate, magnesium chloride, salt (sodium chloride), carrageenan, choline chloride, potassium chloride, ascorbic acid, ferrous sulfate, alpha-tocopheryl acetate, zinc sulfate, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, cupric sulfate, vitamin A palmitate, thiamine chloride hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, chromium chloride, biotin, sodium molybdate, sodium selenate, potassium iodide, phylloquinone, vitamin D3 and cyanocobalamin

Nothing wrong with the first ingredient (water), but look at the next three which make up the bulk of this product: sugar, corn syrup and maltodextrin. Basically, it's coffee creamer. It's only when we get down to the 5th ingredient, calcium caseinate (milk protein) that we're talking about something with nutritional value. However, you can buy milk protein powder for far less money than Ensure, and not get all the sugar and corn starch junk. There are a few vitamins in Ensure, but much less than you'll get from taking just one multi-vitamin pill per day.

In short, I would say that if you're looking to supplement your diet, you'd be better off with milk protein powder (note: this is not whey protein power, which really tastes terrible), or maybe soy protein powder if you prefer its taste, plus a vitamin pill. Unlike Ensure, protein powder by itself isn't sweet, so you'd have to either add sugar or an artificial sweetener (or stevia, which is what I use) to give it flavor. I do add protein powder to my oatmeal (along with stevia and cinnamon) to give it more nutrition. I cannot drink milk, since I'm very lactose intolerant (pure milk protein does not have lactose, and soy protein definitely doesn't either).

Of course, if you drink coffee, you could use Ensure as an expensive and slightly more nutritious alternative to coffee creamer. Otherwise, I'd give it a miss.

Just my opinion.

best regards,
Crohn's since 1988
3 resections

Post Edited (ozonehole) : 8/26/2009 12:09:05 AM (GMT-6)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 1342
   Posted 8/26/2009 2:07 AM (GMT -6)   
I used to drink so much of this crap! I don't know why they have to ruin a nutrition drink by putting garbage in it. Surely they could use healthier ingredients to make it taste better, like stevia.
34 years old, Crohn's disease for 15 of them
Current Meds: Humira since 7/08, Pentasa, Effexor XR
Supplements: 3 kinds of Fish Oil, Multi-Vitamin, B-Complex, Vitamins D, E, & K, Calcium, Magnesium, Enzymes
SCD since 12/01/08 - eating Stage 3 foods

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 82
   Posted 8/26/2009 11:00 AM (GMT -6)   
I won't argue that Ensure is basically Yoohoo with vitamins pumped in it, but I drink it mostly for the vitamins and nutrients.  I particularly like it for its 9 grams of protein per serving.  Being a vegetarian with Crohn's, it's pretty easy to get low on protein and slip into malnutrition.  Plus, it was a nice high-calorie drink for weight gain when I was down to 105 lbs.  I haven't had Ensure for a while, but mainly because it's a bit pricey for a college student to drink regularly.
All in all, it's low in cholesterol and saturated fat and high in protein and calcium (I mean, how many of us are on calcium supplements right now?) so it's fine in my book.  As long as you have a generally healthy diet, I don't see it hurting you that much.
22 years old, Female.
Diagnosed with Crohn's Ileocolitis November 2008.
Currently taking Humira.

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2005
Total Posts : 14995
   Posted 8/26/2009 11:33 AM (GMT -6)   
But Ozone this stuff is good for those of us who can't take a vitamin pill. I have tried childrens chewables and different adult vitamins and they all make me sick. So if I am sick and need to supplement my diet some, I am still going to use it. JMHO
Gail*Nanners* Co-Moderator for Crohns Disease and Anxiety/Panic Forum
Crohn's Disease for over 33 years. Currently on Asacol, Prilosec, Estrace, Prinivil, Diltiazem, Percoset prn for pain, Zofran, Phenergan, Probiotics, Calcium  w/Vit D, and Xanax as needed. Resections in 2002 and 2005. Also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, and Anxiety. Currently my Crohns is in remission, but my joints are going crazy!
It's scary when you start making the same noises As your coffee maker.
*Every tomorrow has two handles.  We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith"*

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 305
   Posted 8/26/2009 12:06 PM (GMT -6)   
I drink it mostly for the calories. I drink the Plus version with 350 calories per can just to try to maintain my weight and maintain a soft diet during flares.
Crohns 30 years. Ileostomy for 15 years. Symptom free for 14 years until 10 months ago. Was on Remicade but just recently switched to Humira because remicade stopped working, B-12 injections and iron.
God Bless. Tony

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 1118
   Posted 8/26/2009 12:30 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi, When i was taking these ensure drinks it was only for the calories to put on weight.Bev x 
Diagnosed with crohn's at 13 now 42
resection, right hemi 1993 In remmision from 93 till last sept with no meds or docs
2 resections small bowel  and fistula jan 09 and given temp stoma.  reversal sheduled for Nov09 Meds:Pentasa 500mg 3x day,  B12 shots, every 3 months, iron syrup,loperimide,folic acid, Back on citalopram 40mg (for Anxiety.)

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 342
   Posted 8/26/2009 12:57 PM (GMT -6)   
its like condensed milk with vitamins..my little brother got a prescription for a drink called Citrisource..and that helped him alot..

 crohns/colitis/lupus/hyperthyroidism-seton fistula pentasa cipro flagyl vicodin

New Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 8/26/2009 6:33 PM (GMT -6)   
I would love to have a substitute for Ensure. I drink it for calories and protein when I don't have much appetite. But it is crazy that it is so sweet. And I hate wasting all that plastic, they should sell it in larger containers.

I'm cutting out dairy products these days and don't know if whey protein will cause problems or not.
Living with CD for the past 36 years, diagnosed in college. Long periods of remission
1 resection in 7/2007 - no pain since then, but struggle with diarrhea, poor absorption, weight loss
Taking Asacol, Flagyl (sometimes), Vitamin B12 injections monthly, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, Calcium

Elite Member

Date Joined Feb 2004
Total Posts : 20552
   Posted 8/26/2009 7:51 PM (GMT -6)   
After reading this article....
You might want to make sure you avoid corn syrup all together, besides which along with molasses and refined sugar they can really exacerbate IBD symptoms, and if you happen to have IBS as well, even more reason to avoid the above.
My bum is broken....there's a big crack down the middle of it! LOL :)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2005
Total Posts : 1338
   Posted 8/26/2009 9:21 PM (GMT -6)   
PB4 -- I've seen that article and avoid High fructose corn syrup in anything and won't let my daughter have it either for that reason on top of the others. I'm not sure if Ensure/Boost have the same problem. They have plain corn syrup and corn syrup solids. Mercury comes in the process of making high fructose corn syrup, I'm not sure if the process is the same for these. Still, I don't have a better substitute when I can only handle liquids and need calories/protein/nutrients. The artificial sweeteners in other drinks are worse for me and the sugar doesn't cause problems for my gut.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2005
Total Posts : 769
   Posted 8/26/2009 9:26 PM (GMT -6)   
know solids can be tough to handle when things get bad but all the sugar and starches in that ensure would be sooo bad for your gut! Think of all the bacteria it is feeding! It is feeding the crohn’s!

Maybe blending foods and sipping that would be a better option? That way you would still get vitamins, minerals, protein etc….. all your nutrients in blended form, like baby food…. Just a suggestion

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 559
   Posted 8/26/2009 9:37 PM (GMT -6)   
cardinal said...
I would love to have a substitute for Ensure. I drink it for calories and protein when I don't have much appetite. But it is crazy that it is so sweet. And I hate wasting all that plastic, they should sell it in larger containers.

I'm cutting out dairy products these days and don't know if whey protein will cause problems or not.

Hi Cardinal. Ensure does include whey protein, so if you're drinking it without problems, it's probably not hurting you.

Pure whey protein powder can be bought in healthfood stores, but it doesn't taste good. Soy protein (also found in Ensure) generally tastes better. What I buy is "milk protein powder" which is 85% calcium caseinate and 15% whey protein - it does not contain lactose, which many of us Crohnies cannot stand. I am very lactose-intolerant - gives me terrible diarrhea. Ensure also does not have lactose. Regular milk is 37% lactose (if you exclude the water). One possibility is to drink lactose-free milk, but if you're sensitive to that, you might want to try soy milk.

best regards and good health,
Crohn's since 1988
3 resections

Regular Member

Date Joined Sep 2004
Total Posts : 207
   Posted 8/27/2009 9:48 AM (GMT -6)   

Yeah, I've started avoiding Boost/Ensure because of the HFCS, etc., too.

My nutritionist recommended Benecalorie for those who need to get extra calories in.  I gave it a try.  It doesn't really taste like anything, it's meant to be mixed into foods/beverages (or you could down it like a shot, but I'm a bit leery of trying that).  It's 330 calories in 1.5 oz.  How do they pack so many calories into such a tiny package?  It's almost entirely fat (33g fat, 7g protein, no carbohydrates).  My only complaint is that it contains sucralose (Splenda), though it's the last ingredient and this didn't taste sweet to me.  I have a feeling that something so calorie-dense is probably prone to spoilage/contamination, and would be even more so if it contained sugar.  It does have preservatives/anti-bacterial agents in it.

Anyway, I mixed it into some fortified soymilk and gave it a try.  No trouble digesting it, but it gave me a food coma (all that fat) and it did make me a tad nauseated (probably too much for my stomach to handle for breakfast).  It definitely sated any hunger I had, and I can see it preventing me from losing any more weight (I've been on a liquid diet due to a partial obstruction).

Though I wish there were something better.  I may go back to my protein smoothies (kefir, protein powder, and frozen fruit) and just omit the fruit (seeds) for now...

Diagnosed with Crohn's in April 2003 (first symptoms in 2001).
Current Medications: Imuran 125mg/day, Humira, Pred 2.5mg/day, Phenergan as needed for nausea, Bentyl as needed for cramping (have previously taken Asacol, Entocort, Flagyl, Cipro, and Cortifoam)
Dietary Supplements: Flax seed oil, Folic Acid, B12, Culturelle, Glucosamine/Chondroitin, Calcium +D

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 37
   Posted 8/27/2009 12:16 PM (GMT -6)   
I think Ensure is terrible for Crohn's. It's full of sugar, low quality (harder to absord, worse bcaa, incomplete) protein, and harder to digest vitamins. I prefer Syntha-6 (available at GNC, etc.), it has extremely high quality protein (several types of protein), awesome BCAAs, glutamine, very low sugar, no aspertime (still tastes amazing though), 400cal 44g protein 10g fiber which is a good ratio, lots of digestive enzymes and other stuff to help your body absord its nutrients. May not work for everyone but, it works great for me and several of my other crohnie friends. I'm pretty sure you can go to BSN's website and request a sample.

New Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 8/29/2009 6:51 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks so much everyone for your suggestions. I will give them a try. The Syntha -6 sounds quite good. I'm wary of the one with so much fat because I don't absorb fat well at all, but who knows. If for any reason it was fat that's easier to digest, it would be great. Making my own smoothies would be the best probably if I weren't so darn lazy and often so uninterested in food.

My GI doc mentioned a kind of oil that is absorbed somewhere other than the terminal ileum, and says that it might be good for me to use, but hasn't prescribed it yet or told me where I can get it.

I've really been struggling to keep weight on and love hearing what other people are doing. Thanks!
Living with CD for the past 36 years, diagnosed in college. Long periods of remission
1 resection in 7/2007 - no pain since then, but struggle with diarrhea, poor absorption, weight loss
Taking Asacol, Flagyl (sometimes), Vitamin B12 injections monthly, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, Calcium

Rider Fan
Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 1445
   Posted 8/29/2009 10:41 PM (GMT -6)   
Syntha-6 also has 10 grams of fiber which - sorry to say- most here can't tolerate, especially in one sitting. Ensure has 9 grams of sugar I believe. This hardly qualifies as 'full of sugar'. This is less sugar than many things people here eat all the time.
33 y/o male. Dx'ed in 1999. No surgeries.

Current meds: Humira 2/27/09. Proferrin iron pills.

Tried SCD, didn't work, now avoiding gluten and dairy.

Go Saskatchewan Roughriders!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jun 2008
Total Posts : 1058
   Posted 8/29/2009 11:31 PM (GMT -6)   
@ Sloth - That much fat will slow down peristalsis once it hits the small intestine. If there is anything else in the meal that takes digesting, you could promote acid reflux. Fat also tends to weaken the sphincter at the top of the stomach, making reflux even more likely. The slowed peristalsis could also allow bacteria to multiply in the small intestine if you used it more than once a day. The small intestine is only able to handle 6 - 7 grams of fat per hour. So 33 grams of fat would take 5 to 6 hours to pass through. That is about three or four times the normal lag time for transit of the small intestine. That is not so terrible by itself, but if there is any other compromise of passage in the small intestine - like a stricture or inflammation - it is trouble.

Now that I have said the above, I have to qualify it. If the fat is in the form of free fatty acids, it is already digested and does not cause the same problems. However, dietary fats are not in that form, so I am supposing that they will require digestion.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 559
   Posted 8/30/2009 1:20 AM (GMT -6)   
Rider Fan said...
Ensure has 9 grams of sugar I believe. This hardly qualifies as 'full of sugar'. This is less sugar than many things people here eat all the time.

You should add in the corn syrup and maltodextrin to the junk calories calculation.

But I don't want to imply that Ensure is the worst thing you can eat (drink). Donuts, for example, would be worse. And if you're so sick that you can't tolerate solid food, drinking a can of Ensure probably makes sense.

But most people who buy Ensure are trying to supplement their nutrition, and I think they are getting a raw deal. Either milk protein or soy protein powder would be far better than Ensure. For as much as it costs, Ensure gives you only getting a small amount of nutrients with a lot of sweet junk. It's basically coffee creamer with some protein and vitamins added.

At least, such is my opinion.

wishing for good health to all,
Crohn's since 1988
3 resections

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