Carrol Krause was a former Herald-Times reporter from Indiana.
Following her 2014 ovarian cancer diagnosis, Carrol turned to the Internet to document her struggles and the stark changes in her day-to-day life caused by the disease (1).
Her blog, Stories by Carrol, documented these struggles with stark realism, including the day that she no longer had the ability to eat due to the growth of an incurable tumor in her bowel (2).
In the weeks leading up to this event, Carrol had been fed Ensure products by her hospice nurse to keep her strength as she fought off the disease (3).
“Hospice had the very best of intentions, and I am grateful for their concern. Although I do not wish to malign them in any way, the stuff they sent over was not real FOOD. In fact, I’m outraged at the idea that they feed this stuff to dying people…It’s not real food, only a collection of starches, sugars, artificial flavors and nutritional powders all mixed into water.” said Carrol in her blog.
“What the hell is going on here? Why is this stuff being pawned off on the ill and elderly? For that matter, why is the worst food in town found at the hospital, where they dole out high-sodium, high-carb, high-junk-ingredient glop to patients and guests?”
She argued that Ensure products were full of fillers, preservatives, sweeteners, and other harmful ingredients. Sadly, she was right.
The Truth about Ensure
Ensure is a brand of pudding, shakes, and “fruit” drinks considered to be meal replacements and liquid nutritional supplements.
The company that produces it, Abbott Nutrition, advertises Ensure as a “1 doctor-recommended brand of liquid nutritional supplements” and a “Worldwide Leader in Nutritional Science” (4).
They don’t just target consumers, though, they also sell directly to hospitals and nurses; they even have a special section on their website dedicated to caregivers and the company even produces enteral formulas for tube-feeding. In fact, the company markets itself as a maker of medical products rather than a brand of nutritional supplements.
However, taking a close look at the label on these products quickly tells a different tale: the first three ingredients are water, corn maltodextrin, and sugar. Maltodextrin is a processed sweetener with no nutritional value. Sugar, on the other hand, is the number food that increases inflammation and feeds cancer. A few item down the list is sucralose, another chemical sweetener (5).
These ingredients take a toll on your liver and pancreas, which can eventually lead to diabetes and other conditions. Other harmful effects include mental problems such as mood swings, clinical depression, and even violence.
To add fuel to the fire on false advertising, their Ensure Clear products depict images of fruit all over the label, and yet the nutritional facts mention in a small and easily missed font that the liquid “contains 0% juice” (6).
The Problem with Supplements
Vitamins and minerals are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins.
Synthetic vitamins, on the other hand, are produced from various chemicals in a laboratory.
These are made to mimic the ways in which nutrients interact with each other, but they don’t always do so effectively.
In some cases, these fake nutrients are classified as toxins by the body and end up begin stored in fat cells. This is alarming since more than 95% of all the vitamin supplements sold today fall into the synthetic category (7).
Natural vitamins, on the other hand, are sourced from produce and isolated from other naturally-occurring nutrients. This means that they lack the transporters and co-factors for the body to utilize them properly.
This can cause your body to leach mineral and vitamins from your organs and bones to be able to properly metabolize the supplement. In other cases, the nutrients are simply excreted by your body because they simply aren’t bioavailable.
Dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are not required to obtain approval from FDA before marketing dietary supplements, meaning that companies are legally allowed to make statements have little to no basis in reality in terms of the quality of their products (8).
Here are just a few of the synthetic nutrients Ensure products contain:
Maltodextrin is a highly processed starch made from GMO corn that’s used as a filler to enhance the sweetness of certain foods and boost their fiber content. It’s known to suppress good bacteria in your digestive system, which can leave you more prone to bacterial infection. Maltodextrin contains roughly the same amount of carbohydrates as sugar and is known to contribute towards obesity and diabetes (9).
Cupric sulfate is a salt formed by treating cupric oxide with sulfuric acid. The substance is actually used to kill bacteria, algae, roots, plants, snails, and fungi (10,11).
Ingesting large amounts of cupric sulfate can lead to nausea, vomiting, and damage to body tissues, blood cells, the liver, and kidneys. It can take weeks for your body to eliminate this substance, which accumulates in the liver, stomach, bone, brain, hair, heart, intestine, kidneys, muscle, nails, skin, and spleen.
Chromium chloride: The naturally occurring version of this substance plays an essential role in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. However, the synthetic version is considered harmful if swallowed and can results in rashes and other symptoms of toxicity if it comes in contact with the skin (12,13).
Sodium selenite is a by-product of copper metal refining that is toxic to ingest, inhale, or put on the skin. Short-term use can result in abdominal cramps, vomiting, and damage to the liver, heart, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract (14).
Dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate is a less effective and less bioavailable version of vitamin E often produced as a petrochemical byproduct. Its ingestion is associated with an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke as well as an increased risk of gastric cancer (16,17,18).
Ferrous sulfate is a synthetic form of iron that can cause constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps, or upset stomach (19).
Niacinamide is the synthetic version of vitamin B3 known to worsens ulcers, raise blood sugar and worsen kidney disease (20).
Manganese sulfate is harmful if swallowed. Long-term use is suspected of causing genetic defects, infertility, development problems, and organ damage (21).
Calcium pantothenate is a calcium salt that can cause liver damage when taken in combination with other vitamins. It’s also known to cause chest pain and dyspnea as well as adrenal problems (22).
Vitamin A palmitate can cause harmful allergic reactions or fetal harm if used during pregnancy (23).
Zinc Sulfate is an inorganic form of zinc that’s cytotoxic and can interact with other nutrients (including phosphorous) and drugs (24).
Sodium molybdate in its natural form is a cofactor for many life-sustaining enzymes. However, the synthetic form is possibly carcinogenic to humans and holds a risk of fire and explosion when it comes in contact with magnesium (25).
Carrol’s Final Message
Despite her struggles Carrol stayed positive and continued to live a healthy lifestyle until her passing in January 2016.
She did, however, leave the world with a final plea:“I wouldn’t feed this stuff to a dying animal, let alone a dying human being. If you agree, let the hospital management know. Or snipe at them via social media until they begin to pay attention. I think it’s time for a food fight!”
Should hospitals really feed their most vulnerable patients artificial foods, or should they go back to the days of hearty soup and home-cooked meals?
Perhaps a food fight really is the only way to strike back and ask that the dying be treated with dignity and given a fair chance to recover.