Ensure is a line of meal-replacement drinks produced by the company Abbott Nutrition since 1973. These products, as well as other meal replacement and weight loss shakes, are typically used by people trying to control their weight through structured, convenient, pre-made meals.
All Ensure products contain protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, sucralose, thickeners and stabilizers. The company recommends these products for people without diabetes. People who live with malnutrition or are losing weight involuntarily, or those who wish to lose or maintain weight, can also use these products.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Fat Loss
Is Ensure for Weight Loss?
Ensure has products that are used as weight loss shakes. These particular shakes are higher in protein and contain all nine essential amino acids, nine B vitamins, three antioxidants, four vitamins that are important for bone health, vitamin K, nine minerals, flavors, balancers and stabilizers.
The company stresses that Ensure was not designed for weight loss, but that it can be used as part of a weight loss plan, as an occasional meal replacement or in-between meal snack. They explain that a person attempting weight loss would still need to be aware of their total calorie consumption when using Ensure for weight loss.
Ensure Max Protein and Ensure High Protein are two protein beverage products that are often used for weight loss. The company recommends only one to two protein shakes per day. The Max Protein beverage contains 30 grams of protein, 150 calories, 1 gram of sugar and 4 grams of carbs.
Read more: Meal Replacement Smoothies for Weight Loss
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlines an appropriate calorie consumption level for weight loss in most adults. This is 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for men, and is recommended for adults who have overweight or obesity. The guidelines explain that this is most effective for the first six months to two years and that the long-term effects of lowering calories to this level are unknown.
The guidelines also explain that eating from a wide variety of food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, protein and fats) is important. A minimum of 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day are recommended as part of a healthy balanced diet, because they provide all of the vitamins and minerals the body needs, as well as phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Even though shakes contain some of these, they do not contain all of them, and therefore cannot completely replace real, whole foods.
A clinical study in the August 2018 issue of the Journal of Obesity concluded that meal replacements are effective, but unsustainable due to their severe energy restriction. However, a meta-analysis published in the January 2019 issue of Obesity Treatment explains that meal replacements used in weight loss programs led to greater weight loss after one year than other weight loss programs.
The review suggests that meal replacements be considered as a valid option for managing weight and obesity within community and health care settings.
Ensure Drink Side Effects
The side effects of Ensure are not well known. The 2019 review in Obesity Treatment showed no adverse events from the use of meal replacement shakes. The American Diabetes Association recommends using shakes only with a doctor's supervision. The Regulatory Affairs Professional Society states that while meal replacement shakes are highly regulated when used for weight loss, they could benefit from additional regulation and updated standards.
An August 2013 study in Diabetes Spectrum does mention bloating and diarrhea as potential side effects of meal replacement shakes that contain sugar alcohols. The Mayo Clinic states that although artificial sweeteners like the sucralose found in Ensure may help with diabetes and weight control, there are potential gastrointestinal side effects, such as bloating, diarrhea, a laxative effect and intestinal gas.
- Ensure.com: " What's in My Ensure"
- Ensure.com: "Frequently Asked Questions"
- DietaryGuidelines.gov: "2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Importance of Calorie Balance Within Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Journal of Obesity: "Effects of a Meal Replacement on Body Composition and Metabolic Parameters Among Subjects With Overweight or Obesity"
- Obesity Treatment: "A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of the Effectiveness of Meal Replacements for Weight Loss"
- American Diabetes Association: "Healthier Eating One Step at a Time"
- Regulatory Affairs Professional Society: "Regulatory Requirements for Meal Replacement Products: An International Review"
- Diabetes Spectrum: "Meal Replacement Shakes and Nutrition Bars: Do They Help Individuals With Diabetes Lose Weight?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes"