AlterNet / By April M. Short

Sick Patients Are Pumped Full of Feed-Tube Formula of Corn Syrup That's Produced by ... Nestle?
One concerned daughter created the first ever self-stable feeding tube formula free of chemicals and processed foods.

May 28, 2013

When family nurse practitioner Susan Lavelle learned that a neighbor of hers developed the autoimmune disease systemic sclerosis and couldn’t naturally ingest food last year, she became concerned about the feeding tube formula doctors were recommending. The formula, called Ensure, was full of processed, sugary ingredients.

Ensure is produced by Abbott Nutrition, a company that competes with the multinational conglomerate company, Nestle to produce most of the feeding tube products available.

To give an example of what Ensure is made of, the first six ingredients—i.e. the most highly concentrated ingredients—of 36 items listed in the Ensure “Powder Vanilla” product are, in order:

“Corn Syrup, Corn Maltodextrin, Sugar (Sucrose), Corn Oil, Sodium & Calcium Caseinates, Soy Protein Isolate and Artificial Flavor.”

“[Ensure is] a very traditional way the medical system addresses getting calories into people because they can’t swallow or because they need more calories from some disease problem,” says Lavelle, noting that when she worked in hospitals Ensure was the only feeding tube formula she remembers them using.

She continues, “The problem is it’s loaded with sugar. It’s got refined sugar in it, like corn syrup. It’s got the concentrated milk protein casenite. … It’s processed food. Basically, it’s not real food.”

Nestle and Abbott Nutrition produce a majority of feeding tube formulas on the market, and Lavelle says hospitals and care facilities typically recommend Ensure and similar products to feeding tube patients.

Lavelle is an instructor through the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s “Food For Life” program, and an advocate of unprocessed, whole foods as a means of promoting health. She says she has found it discouraging that the medical system addresses most issues from a pharmacological or procedural standpoint, with little-to-no emphasis on lifestyle interventions like nutrition.

“When I talk to people [about health], I start with food because I think it makes the biggest difference and gets to the root of the problem,” she says.

So, when Lavelle’s neighbor was told to drink Ensure, she asked around the medical and nutrition communities in search of a feeding tube formula that was made up of whole, non-processed foods.

“Everyone said, ‘We can’t help you,” she says.

It was not until this year that Lavelle discovered the first ever shelf-stable, organic, whole foods feeding tube formula on the market. It is called Liquid Hope