Are Liquid Supplements For You?

Until recently such products as Ensure ™ and Boost ™ were primarily used to meet the special needs of patients in hospitals and in nursing homes. Lately, we have seen companies marketing these sorts of drinks to people of all ages and states of health.

Supposedly, liquid supplements are the answer for busy moms with a tight schedule, business people running out without time for a sit-down breakfast, and older adults wanting to guarantee that they’ll be able to enjoy their grandchildren. What are the benefits liquid supplements reportedly offer?

Generally, these supplements are composed of water, sugar, milk and soy proteins, oils, vitamins, and minerals. A typical 8-ounce can contains 250 calories, and the Aplus@ version may contain as many as 355 calories. Most are lactose free, some have added fibre, and some are specifically designed for children or adults with certain health problems.

Companies are also selling supplements in the shape of pudding or bars, with a varying nutrient content.

What nutritional needs are these companies trying to help consumers answer? Here are some of the reasons companies give for buying their products.

Advertisers sometimes use fear tactics to make you worry that you’re not getting proper nutrition through ordinary foods. Although some people are consuming less than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for certain nutrients, this does not mean they will develop a deficiency disease. If you truly feel you’re not getting enough nutrients from your food, consult a registered dietician or a KSU Extension Specialist in nutrition. They will be able to help you evaluate your need for supplements.

“Too busy to eat properly” – Liquid supplements may be a fast way to get vitamins, minerals and protein, but there’s more needed for good health! Scientists continue to discover new compounds in certain foods that provide health-protective benefits. Whereas the canned supplements may lack fibre and other healthy components, they may be high in sugar and calories. Although this was ideal for the original intent of these products, most healthy consumers do not want or need all the extra calories that these supplements provide.

“Difficulty preparing meals or no appetite” –  Liquid supplements can provide an answer for occasional use, but a continued use may lead to boredom and even less interest in eating. For a consumer with a poor appetite or impaired ability to fix meals, the solution might be found in home-delivered meals or eating at a group meal site. These meals can offer more variety and may be available at little or no cost to the consumer.

“Nutrition after surgery, during an illness or a chronic disease” –  Liquid nutritional supplements can prove to be beneficial for people with special nutritional needs brought on by serious illnesses. For example, people with AIDS or cancer have some increased nutritional needs, and liquid nutritional supplements are appropriate and valuable in this situation.

To summarize it all, whereas there is a need for liquid nutritional supplements in certain medical conditions, these products are unnecessary for the average, healthy person. The cost for a 8-ounce can of standard formula, and more for specialized formulas must be part of a decision if a person is considering to use a liquid nutritional supplement.


John Rifkind is a contributing editor at This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.