Ensure Review

Ensure shakes are products created by the company Abbott, and they are sold in a variety of stores nationwide. They have been on the market since 1973, and to date, there are ten different drinks to choose from that come in a variety of flavor profiles. There are many different drinks out on the market today, and most of them tout weight loss and meal replacement, but what about Ensure? This milk like drink has been known to be a meal replacement drink, but it also has been said to help people gain weight too. I guess you could say this about any drink of this nature, but it has its double uses for sure. From babies to elderly people and in between these drinks are used as a quick source of calories for those who are in need or too busy to eat. They have been said to give you a boost in vitamins and minerals, all while supplying you will protein too. [1] 

There are a few different types of Ensure that you can purchase from the main site or in stores:  

  • Ensure Original: 220 calories with 9 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Plus: 350 calories with 13 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Enlive: 350 calories with 20 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure High Protein: 160 calories with 16 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Clear: 180 calories with 8 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Light: 70 calories with 12 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Powder: 250 calories with 9 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Compact: 220 calories with 9 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Surgery: 4.2 grams Arginine and 18 grams of protein. 
  • Ensure Pre-Surgery: 200 calories with 50 carbs. 

There are different available trademark flavors to choose from too: Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, dark chocolate, butter pecan, and coffee latte. The Ensure drink does have a pleasant taste, but is it healthy when it is all said and done?  I will highlight the ingredients below.  

Company Contact Information: 

Abbott Laboratories 

100 Abbott Park Road 

Abbott Park, Illinois 60064-3500 [2] 

Telephone: (224) 667-6100 

Ensure Claims 

The company does not make a lot of claims about this specific drink causing significant weight loss, but they do claim their drink is the #1 Doctor Recommended brand. They say,  

“Our formulas have been developed with leading scientists and several clinical studies. We hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to nutrition, and we continue to develop products and innovations that provide impactful nutrition for those who are always striving to improve.” [4] 

They also claim,  

“Our formulas have been developed with leading scientists and several clinical studies.” [4]  

“Ensure can be used as a delicious meal supplement, occasional meal replacement, or convenient between-meal snack. Ensure can benefit people who are on modified diets, at nutritional risk, experiencing involuntary weight loss, recovering from illness or surgery, or on low-residue diets. Although Ensure was not designed specifically for weight loss, it can be used as part of a balanced, calorie-reduced diet for weight loss as long as the total calories for the day stay within the weight loss calorie level recommended for you. 

Ensure Ingredients 

When looking at the Ensure nutrition facts it was clear that there are a lot of ingredients loaded into such a small drink! Nothing is seen as dangerous or harmful, but if you are into keeping it simple this might not be the drink for you. Sugar, canola oil, and many different forms of chloride were not on the top of my list to consume, so this list is rather surprising:  

“Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Sugar, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil, Soy Protein Isolate, Cocoa Powder (Processed with Alkali), Corn Oil. Less than 0.5% of: Nonfat Milk, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Cellulose Gel, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Cellulose Gum, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, Potassium Hydroxide, Turmeric, Liquid Sucralose, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Acesulfame Potassium, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Chromium Chloride, Red 3, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Molybdate, Phylloquinone, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D3.” [3] 

The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind Ensure 

Abbott claims that they have many scientific studies that back up their formula, however, they fail to provide any of them on their main website. Many doctors recommend that cancer patients take this drink if they are losing weight and are unable to eat, but there might be some backlash to these recommendations. Ensure is indeed loaded with sugar, with the original formula containing over 15 grams. Cancer cells feed on sugar. There are also a staggering 33 grams of carbs in this one small shake, as well as canola oil, which is heavily processed. While science can tell you these drinks are super healthy, just looking at the ingredients does not make them appear that way. [5] 

Regarding doctors recommending this product, it surprises me because these shakes are loaded with processed ingredients and sugar. There are, however, studies done on the effects that sugar can have on negatively impacting progress from radiation and chemotherapy in these patients too.

According to a study done by Healthwire,  

“Recently, there has been another addition to the array of medical papers revealing the detrimental effect of elevated blood sugar in patients undergoing treatment for cancer. This paper showed that patients with an episode of elevated blood sugar while receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme (an aggressive and fatal brain tumor) experienced a survival that was half that of the other patients.” [6] 

In saying all that, there are no real studies backing why this shake is nutritionally sound and the best option for people seeking out weight loss or weight gain, especially if they are undergoing surgery or dealing with cancer. The company is a well-known brand globally, so they can get away with making large claims about their studies without having to actually provide them to anyone. Either way, they will still sell off the shelves, and doctors will continue to recommend them for their patients. The drinks do not taste bad, which is nice, but again they are loaded with sugar, which many people enjoy.  

Word On The Street About Ensure  

This Abbott product really covers a variety of services for many different people. I know elderly people who have taken these drinks for more calories, babies who drink it to get a little more chub, and I personally have had these drinks to get a little more protein in my diet. The taste is not terrible, and the chocolate flavor was my personal favorite. They taste pretty good refrigerated, but I have also had them right off the grocery store shelf at room temperature and they were fine too. I wanted to look at some outside opinions on the drinks themselves to give you a better idea of how others liked them.  

Catherine (2015, 2 star), 

“Mixed bag here. LOVE the taste, though I would most assuredly prefer something a little less sweet. So, perhaps the Ensure Light would be more to my liking. The problem is that it says it's suitable for lactose intolerance, and that's the only reason I bought these. Problem is, they are NOT suitable for lactose intolerance as they say, and for me, that's terribly problematic. Taste wise, however, you'll love it. Nice coffee latte shake. Not gritty, very satisfying.” [7] 

PG (2017, 5 star),  

“My husband loves this shake. He's currently recovering from a disease which kept him in the hospital for awhile. He drinks this to ensure he's getting the nutrients he needs when his appetite wanes.” [8] 

Alia (2017, 5 star),  

“Tastes great. I think 220 calories is not enough calories for an entire meal. So i drink it and maybe have fruit, or 1/3 of a normal meal I would have eaten. The shake helps me feel full longer.” [9] 

The Bottom Line: Is Ensure Worth A Try? 

Yes. While they do not have the most nutritious ingredients available and hardly any studies are done that promote the product, they are good drinks for getting in calories. More people use these drinks as weight gain supplements rather than weight loss, but they can be used both ways. There is nothing dangerous about Ensure milk, but do note if you are lactose intolerant they might upset your stomach. Ensure protein is also a good way to supplement if you are lacking in this department, so it does not hurt to give that particular line of drinks a try as well. Overall, there is nothing alarming or harmful when it comes to Ensure, I just do not like how large the distributor is because they can get away with some unhealthy ingredients like too much sugar and canola oil, which shouldn’t be consumed excessively.

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