Nutrition in a bottle: sometimes more hype than help, from the Harvard Health Letter

Supplemental nutrition drinks can be a boon for people who struggle with a loss of appetite, find it difficult to chew, have trouble preparing balanced meals, or are recovering from surgery or illness. But they aren't magic bullets for nutrition, reports the July 2013 Harvard Health Letter.

One misconception is that nutrition in a can mimics nutrition from food. Not so. "Even if they are fortified, they still won't contain all of the nutrients a whole food source would," says Stacey Nelson, a dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Supplemental nutrition drinks generally provide protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, and minerals. There are hundreds of varieties that fall into two general categories. Shakes, such as Boost or Ensure, are drinks intended to help meet general nutrition goals. Formulas such as Jevity and Osmolite are designed for people with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and late-stage kidney failure. They are often used in feeding tubes.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »