I’ve had a lot of people contact me asking what I think about Nestle’s announcement regarding their soon-to-be-released “real food” pureed food for enteral feeding. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject matter. But, to sum it up in one word: NO. A big, fat NO.
Why do I say this? Is it because of the ingredients? Actually, no. This goes far deeper than that. I’d like to show you the booklet Nestle Health Science is passing out to dietitians in preparation for this product’s release. But, first, I’d like to tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a company named Nestle Health Science. They made enteral formulas that they claimed were wonderful for children. They went on and on about how gentle and “easy to digest” their formulas were. In truth, Nestle Health Science hadn’t conducted a single clinical trial using their formulas to learn whether they actually were gentle and easy to digest. They had no data whatsoever to support these claims about their formulas. And their formulas were absolutely loaded with sugar, unhealthful oils, and other nasty things that are terrible for digestion as well as virtually every system in the entire body.
These formulas, because of their terrible ingredients, were making many children very, very sick. Many children vomited excessively (many times per day), including my son, Bradley. Even for those that did not vomit while fed these formulas and appeared to be thriving on them, time was the real test. I have had a very large number of parents reach out to me with children who, after several years of being fed these formulas, had developed type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular problems, renal problems, and more from these “gentle” formulas of “complete nutrition.” And this isn’t surprising since diets extremely high in sugar are strongly associated with these very health issues.
Nestle Health Science absolutely did not care about any of this. The ingredients they chose were cheap. That is why they chose them. This did not mean their formulas were sold at a cheap price. On the contrary, they are very expensive for consumers. This meant an extremely high profit margin for Nestle Health Science. In other words, in their development of their formulas, the health of the children being fed these formulas was never a significant part of their decision making process. The health of our children was irrelevant. What mattered to them was money, our children be damned.
Nestle Health Science sent representatives to doctors and dietitians to tell them how wonderful their products are. These representatives failed to mention to any of these medical professionals that they’d done virtually no scientific research to determine whether their claims were even true. And the majority of doctors and dietitians swallowed everything the Nestle representatives fed them without ever bothering to check whether these claims were true. These enteral formulas became the normal, default diet for tube-fed children and adults. As these children and adults often vomited and suffered severe complications while being fed these formulas, the medical profession scratched their heads, wondering how this could be happening since these formulas were supposedly so gentle and easy to digest. Still, few approached these formulas with an appropriate level of skepticism.
Mothers will only tolerate this for so long. So, eventually, we started to figure out that these formulas simply were not what we had been told. They actually were not gentle and easy to digest. They were not healthful and nutritious. They had an enormous amount of sugar. They were making our children sick. And so, slowly, over time, more and more mothers and fathers began to see that they had been misled and stopped using enteral formula. Adults with feeding tubes began doing the same. They themselves noticed how much better they felt when being fed real food.
Less and less tube-fed people were purchasing these enteral formulas, favoring pureed meals made at home instead. Less people purchasing the enteral formula meant Nestle Health Science’s profits were going to decrease. Wanting to avoid that, Nestle Health Science developed a new formula called Compleat. They advertised and marketed this formula as a formula made of real food. However, this was entirely untrue.
Compleat was loaded with sugar and unhealthful oils just like all of the other formulas. It contained only trace amounts of food. Their goal was not to actually make a healthful enteral formula made of real food. Their goal was to make a product that was still very cheap to produce that looked like it was healthful and made of real food so that people would be fooled into buying it. They told dietitians and doctors about their wonderful real food formula and many parents were told (myself included) by medical professionals that Compleat is made of entirely real food.
Apparently, most dietitians and doctors never bothered to check the ingredient list to see if what Nestle Health Science was saying is true. A simple look at the ingredient list will tell you this is not a real food product. The most abundant ingredient in Compleat was corn syrup. OK, so corn syrup is technically a “food,” but the cans of Compleat have pictures of fruits and vegetables on them. They don’t show a picture of a bottle of corn syrup. I suppose they realized that wouldn’t be nearly as appealing if their marketing gave a realistic view of what this formula contained. And when we are talking about a diet of real food, we are absolutely not talking about a diet of mostly corn syrup. Can you imagine if the most abundant ingredient in your diet was corn syrup? How do you think you’d feel if you ate more corn syrup than any other ingredient day in and day out?
For a while, this strategy worked. Parents fed Compleat believing they were providing a better product to their child because dietitians and doctors told them it was better because Nestle Health Science had told the dietitians and doctors it was better.
After a while, parents began noticing the ingredient list and realized this was not nearly as healthful of a product as they’d been told. Less and less people were willing to use these products with concerns about such excessive corn syrup.
So, Nestle Health Science, according to them, “listened to parents’ concerns.” They changed the corn syrup in the Compleat to brown rice syrup. Nestle Health Science was banking on the idea that parents would see the words “brown rice” and believe it was better than corn syrup. However, the reality is that brown rice syrup is a terrible ingredient. It has one of the highest glycemic indices of any ingredient known to man. Brown rice syrup is made by taking everything good in brown rice and removing it, leaving only the sugar behind. This sugar is then concentrated into a syrup. And by the way, lots of brown rice syrup has been shown to contain levels of arsenic above the levels deemed safe for children to consume.
Some people were excited about the change to brown rice syrup, but most parents didn’t fall for it. And those that did were learning the truth about brown rice syrup and Compleat as time passed.
In time, Nestle Health Science could see what was coming. If this trend continued, profits would suffer. So, along with Abbott Nutrition, Nestle Health Science launched a very aggressive campaign against feeding food to tube-fed people. Abbott Nutrition conducted some very ridiculous studies that Nestle Health Science was only too happy to promote and share. In these studies, Abbott went to places such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. There, they went to hospitals already well documented to have kitchens full of bacterial contamination. They tested the pureed food made in these highly contaminated kitchens. Because the pureed food had high levels of bacterial contamination, as any food made in a contaminated kitchen would whether pureed or not, they concluded “blenderized diets have been shown to have high levels of bacterial contamination.”
Abbott Nutrition and Nestle Health Science passed along these findings to doctors and dietitians without ever mentioning the location of their data collection. If you Google Abbott Nutrition and blenderized diets, you can find a manual they make standing against blenderized diets because of how dangerous they supposedly are, citing this extremely poorly done research. I dare not even refer to it as scientific research because science isn’t really what is being done when a team of researchers skew their study design to get the results they want. You can see Nestle Health Science making these claims in an email from them here. You can read more about the poorly done research conducted regarding the use of blenderized diets and enteral formula in my book, which you can order by following the instructions here.
Nestle Health Science continued their campaign against real food for tube-fed people, citing their formulas as the perfect and more safe substitution. They described blenderized diets as difficult to digest and full of bacteria that would surely make those being fed them sick. They strongly advocated for dietitians and doctors to refuse to condone or recommend blenderized diets. In the medical profession as a whole, this has largely worked. It is shockingly rare for the parent of a tube-fed child to find a medical profession that supports blenderized diets.
Healthcare systems began making policies based on Nestle Health Science’s aggressive campaign that forbid tube-fed patients from being fed food while in the hospital. Parents were threatened to be removed from the hospital away from their child if they did not agree to feed their child a formula that made their child vomit 10 times per day instead of the pureed food that their child did not vomit with at all. Yes, it has truly gotten this bad. And the unscientific and unethical practices of Abbott Nutrition and Nestle Health Science are why it has gotten this bad. They will do anything to keep profits high even if it means sacrificing our children’s health. They’ve consistently proven this through the decisions they’ve made.
In spite of these policies, in spite of doctors telling parents they would no longer provide treatment to their child if they fed a blenderized diet, in spite of it all…mothers knew best. More and more moved toward a diet of real food as they realized food is what everyone in the entire world eats, including the very people campaigning so strongly against it. We saw how much better our children and loved ones were doing on real food. There was simply no comparison between real food and enteral formula. We took a stand and demanded real food for our children. One mother, in spite of hospital policy forbidding the feeding of food to tube-fed people, stood at the door of her child’s hospital room and refused to allow anyone to enter the room that had any formula. She won. Mothers were paving the way.
Meanwhile, two companies began that made enteral products that actually were made of real food. One was a company called Functional Formularies. The founder of Functional Formularies developed an enteral product called Liquid Hope after she was so horrified and appalled at seeing the options made available to tube-fed patients when her father was ill and required tube feeding. Eventually, they developed a product intended for pediatric use called Nourish as well. Both products are entirely plant based, organic, and non-GMO.
Another company was started by the parents of a child with a feeding tube. They, too, found that the formulas made their son very ill and switched to a blenderized diet. Wanting an option suitable for travel or just other times that blending isn’t possible or desired, they began a company called Real Food Blends. They offer a variety of basic meals similar to common meals people eat, such as juice, roast beef with spinach and other veggies and a breakfast blend of eggs, oatmeal, and apples.
Many doctors and dietitians have refused to prescribe these real food products, citing a “lack of research” on the products as their reasoning. They would then turn to products by Nestle Health Science and recommend those products instead in spite of the fact that those products have never been scientifically researched, either. The bias has been obvious and appalling. While Nestle Health Science has taken doctors and dietitians out for lavish dinners and won their hearts that way, Functional Formularies and Real Food Blends have instead invested their funding into developing products that are actually made of real food. Sure, it costs more to make and profit margins are lower. But, unlike Nestle Health Science, that was a sacrifice both companies were willing to make.
Nestle Health Science representatives began telling doctors and dietitians that Real Food Blends and Nourish were dangerous. They claimed kids were doing poorly on them. They claimed insurance would not cover them, so not to bother prescribing them. None of these claims were true.
With more and more people turning to Functional Formularies and Real Food Blends for ready made enteral products as well as making their own pureed food at home, Nestle Health Science saw what was going to happen next. In spite of all their efforts to keep us from feeding our children food, they were failing miserably at doing so. With less and less people interested in their enteral formulas, and the prediction of drastically falling profits, Nestle Health Science…the same company that had spent years spreading poorly done research and so very aggressively campaigning against food for tube-fed people…developed an enteral product of real food.
They looked at Liquid Hope, Nourish, and Real Food Blends…the same products they’d claimed were so terrible for children…and copied them. Knowing all of this information and knowing how aggressively Nestle Health Science has campaigned against food for tube-fed people, look over the booklet they are making to promote their product.
Have we moved to a different planet? This company that has claimed literally for years that real food is not suitable for tube-fed children and will make them very sick…this company that has claimed that high sugar diets are healthful for children and their sugar-loaded formulas are so easy to digest…as soon as profits are threatened, now, they’re saying, “Real food. A real difference.” “Real food can make a real difference for your patients.” “Served with LOVE.” “A healthy eating pattern includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, especially whole fruits.”
It is truly sickening. This shows quite clearly they have known all along that there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding a tube-fed child food, but just said so to keep the money rolling in while they made droves of children unnecessarily ill. Even more infuriating, dietitians are pressuring parents to switch from Nourish or Real Food Blends to these products even though these products aren’t even on the market, yet. They’ve told parents for years that they don’t like Real Food Blends or Nourish because of a lack of clinical trials, but they’re without hesitation jumping to recommend this product even though it not only has no research done on it, it hasn’t even been used in the tube-fed population yet to see if there will be any issues from it.
Shame on any doctor or dietitian for pushing parents toward a product like this made by such a dishonest and untrustworthy company while discouraging the use of products that have been used with great success by thousands and thousands of people. Shame on any doctor or dietitian that has refused to recommend or prescribe Nourish, Real Food Blends, or a home blenderized diet, but is jumping to recommend and prescribe a Nestle Health Science product that is literally a direct copy of these very products.
Nestle Health Science, you have burned your bridge with me. You have shown my child’s health absolutely does not matter to you. He was never even the tiniest part of the bottom line for you. You’ll do whatever makes you money, even if it means making children sick. You have not earned the trust required for me to place anything made by you into my son’s body.
So, I don’t need to look at their ingredient list. I truly don’t care if it actually is made of entirely real food. I only need to see who it is made by to say a resounding no. We already have two very good options for premade pureed food that are made by companies proven to actually care about the people being fed their products and desire good health for the tube-fed community.
Add to this, I believe a homemade blenderized diet is the best you can give your child or loved one living with a feeding tube even though I fully support the use of Real Food Blends, Liquid Hope, and Nourish. And here is the reason why. Enteral products are required to go through a heating process to make them shelf stable. The companies making these products have no other option, so this is not saying anything negative about the companies themselves. When food is heated in this way, many natural vitamins in the food are destroyed. These vitamins must then be supplemented with a multivitamin of some kind. Functional Formularies adds a vitamin blend back into the product. People using solely Real Food Blends add a multivitamin each day.
But, this is not the same as consuming these vitamins and minerals directly in food. For example, a study showed diets high in foods that contain lots of vitamin C provided a great protective component to the cardiovascular system. Diets low in foods containing vitamin C, but supplemented with high amounts of vitamin C from a man-made vitamin did not provide the same cardiovascular benefits. This shows that while supplements can be a great help, they don’t provide the full benefits of vitamins and minerals naturally found in a whole food with all of that food’s enzymes, cofactors, and more. There are many other examples of this in the medical literature. Real Food Blends created a free recipe booklet that includes freshly pureed food blended into their meals for those that wish to do so for this reason.
Nestle Health Science, I’m sure, will promote their product as the perfect alternative to a home blenderized diet, claiming it is more safe as they cite the ridiculous studies cited by Abbott claiming home blenderized diets are dangerous. These products by Nestle Health Science are absolutely not superior to a home blenderized diet. And for those that truly cannot blend either some of the time or all of the time, there are already products made with real food made by people who are far more trustworthy. They stood for real food from the very beginning and endured the attacks of Nestle Health Science. Both companies were inspired by the love of a close family member in need of something better than the sugar-laden formulas made by Nestle Health Science and other companies.
I can only speculate regarding Nestle Health Science’s long term plan. But, I’ve already made a guess, based on their history. While I may be completely wrong, my prediction is that Nestle Health Science plans to do what they can to put Functional Formularies and Real Food Blends out of business by either purchasing them or squashing them…whichever works. If they were to succeed (and since I know the owners of Functional Formularies and Real Food Blends both, I can assure you, that is a big IF), they will have eliminated their competition. Then, they’ll do what they can to get people to use Compleat as much as possible because Compleat, with its very cheap ingredients, offers a substantially higher profit margin. Perhaps they’ll work with insurance companies to require Compleat to be used first, turning only to the Compleat Organic Blends if Compleat isn’t medically possible for one reason or another, regaining their high profit margin from their Compleat.
Whatever their plan is, I don’t care except in what ways this will impact the tube-fed community. There are many reasons to not support Nestle in general. While I’ll always recommend a home blenderized diet rich in plant foods first and foremost, I do strongly support both Functional Formularies and Real Food Blends for those that choose to go that route. But, I will never support any product made by Nestle Health Science no matter what they come up with.