Should the Elderly Drink Ensure for Nutrition?

Proper nutrition helps to ensure that older adults stay in good health, remain self-sufficient and maintain a high quality of life, explains the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging at Florida International University. Unfortunately, older adults often experience physiological, social, environmental and economic changes that affect their nutritional intake. Ensure, a liquid nutritional supplement, can help boost the nutritional content of an older adult's diet.

Elderly people might need Ensure to meet nutritional needs. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Nutritional Content

Every can of Ensure provides the same nutrition. Each 8 oz. serving contains 350 calories and 11 g of fat, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and also provides 440 g of potassium, 240 mg of sodium and 13 g of protein. The vitamins and minerals provided by a serving of Ensure include vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium. Other nutrients provided are iron, vitamin D, folate and vitamin B12, among many others.

Significance

There are several reasons an elderly person would need a nutritional supplement like Ensure. The elderly often fail to take in enough nutrients, especially if suffering from an illness or growing frail, according to Consumer Reports. Some need to drink ensure when a digestive disorder or chronic disease such as cancer limits the amount of nutrients the intestines can absorb.

Benefits

Ensure can benefit an elderly person in a number of ways. It has a high calorie content that can quickly replace calories not consumed due to physiological problems, poor access to food, lack of desire to eat or lack of appetite caused by medications. Ensure supplements the diet to ensure proper nutrient intake, especially of calcium, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin B12, which are very important to normal functioning and wound healing, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Considerations

Ensure can provide benefits but also has a couple of negatives. The high calorie content can cause weight gain if an elderly person already consumes enough calories for weight maintenance, increasing the risk of obesity and health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. As a snack or meal replacement, Ensure can decrease the amount natural nutrients provided by the fruit, vegetables and whole grains consumed by elderly, says Dr. Michael Hall, a family physician for Dubois Regional Medical Center. The body absorbs and uses natural nutrients easier than it dose those provided by supplements.

Alternative Options

To minimize the need for Ensure, encourage a healthy intake of calories and nutrients. Add peanut butter to crackers, toast, raw vegetables and fresh fruit; sprinkling chopped nuts or wheat germ on fruit, yogurt or cereal; and adding egg whites to scrabbled eggs. Other options include restoring flavor to bland foods with spices, planning healthy snacks between meals, and encouraging physical activity.

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