Just what does “No. 1 Recommended by Doctors” mean in those Ensure ads?

Is it really true that doctors and nurses sincerely believe that Ensure is good for their patients?

“Ensure is definitely not conducive to good health,” begins Stacy Mitchell Doyle, MD, resident physician of FoodTherapyMD and long-time advocate of plant-based nutritional protocols.

Dr. Doyle continues, “The ingredients of concentrated milk byproducts, artificial sugars and synthetic vitamins create inflammation and decreased immune function. Yet it carries the label ‘Number 1 Doctor Recommended.’”

You’ll find Ensure in hospitals all over the U.S. Of course, hospitals also carry other “unhealthy” foods such as potato chips, ice cream, cake, pizza, cookies and hotdogs.

But Ensure was given to me as a treat with my dinner, without me asking, when I was hospitalized overnight. I doubt the hospital gives cake or brownies as unsolicited treats.

Why Some Doctors and Nurses Recommend Ensure

I lived this experience firsthand and can tell you precisely why Ensure is the first thing that comes to mind for many doctors and nurses when it comes to nourishing the body.

Let me put it this way. Try to imagine how utterly difficult it would be to get your clinically depressed elderly mother to chew on salmon and swallow it.

When my mother was disabled by depression (later found out to be primarily caused by untreated low thyroid), I was putting forkfuls of salmon to her mouth and urging her to open.

It was a battle to get her to eat her favorite foods like scrambled eggs and yogurt.

But for some odd reason, it was easy to get her to drink Ensure through a straw.

I’m sure scenes like this play out thousands of times a day all over – whatever an underweight elderly person will eat, give it to them, because sometimes, the issue is just getting enough calories into them rather than phytonutrients.

Whatever it takes to get an elderly, ill, underweight person to take in calories, YOU DO IT – even if it’s Ensure!

It was no surprise that whenever I mentioned my mother’s eating issues with various nurses, they’d predictably ask if I had tried Ensure.

When doctors and nurses recommend Ensure, you absolutely must take into consideration the CONTEXT of these recommendations.

Weak from Undereating, Need Calories STAT!

If you ask a doctor or nurse what beverage they recommend “for my elderly sick mother/father/spouse who refuses to eat and is losing a lot of weight and is beginning to look like skin and bones,” you’d better believe you’ll hear “Give them Ensure.”

Now ask a doctor or nurse the following question (and note the drastic change in context):

“What is the healthiest beverage a person can drink?”

You can bet the farm none will answer “Ensure” or any drink similar to it like Boost.

Hospitals will buy the cheapest “nutrition drink” for their patients. If Ensure is cheaper by huge volume than is its main competitors (Boost and Equate), then Ensure will win the bid. Do not take out of context the “Recommended No. 1 by Doctors.”

Yeah, Ensure is No. 1 when compared to Boost or the Equate version of this sugary beverage.

And remember, what’s easier for a post-op 103 pound, non-compliant 85-year-old who refuses to eat to get down in one sitting?

• 300 calories of chicken and potatoes?
• 300 calories of oatmeal and fruit?
• 300 calories of Ensure through a straw?

Brilliant Marketing for Ensure

Why is Ensure No. 1 recommended by doctors? It’s all about the money, says Dr. Doyle.

“Abbott Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Ensure, is a multibillion dollar international company,” continues Dr. Doyle.

“And they spend tens of millions of dollars marketing to physicians, as well as taking them to dinners, sporting events and conferences.

“And more millions are spent on direct to consumer advertising and commercials, so that regular people ask their doctors to prescribe it to them. So having the approval of doctors doesn’t always mean it’s healthy.

“Ensure is not real food. If you are looking for better health, you will find it in the produce section, not in a bottle of liquid candy.”

When’s the last time you saw a TV commercial for pomegranate juice? Medical professionals are subjected to marketing just like anybody else.

Reams of studies have been done on the health benefits of pomegranate juice and green tea, yet doctors and nurses continue to recommend Ensure.

BUT REMEMBER THE CONTEXT of that recommendation!

This also includes for younger people with a health condition that makes solid food intolerable.

It’s much easier for medical professionals to recommend something ready-made in a small bottle than hand out recipes to fruit smoothies.

If you have a decent appetite and want to eat healthy, skip the No. 1 doctor recommended Ensure and drink what has been scientifically proven to be beneficial to the body such as a homemade berry smoothie with some leafy greens mixed in.

FoodTherapyMD™ is the brainchild of Dr. Mitchell Doyle and recognizes that phytonutrients, the substances that make plant food so amazing, can be tailored to fight specific disease states. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.