I wrote already here why I do not support Nestle’s new Compleat Organic Blends. I wrote of how aggressively Nestle Health Science (along with Abbott Nutrition) has campaigned against feeding food to tube-fed people and the extremely flawed “research” they willfully conducted and/or spread to medical professionals. They were poorly conducted studies leading to poorly collected data to begin with, and then, this data was presented to healthcare professionals completely out of context. Their reason was to coerce and deceive the medical profession to turn away from real food for tube-fed people favoring their enteral formulas instead.
This practice is an assault on science. It is an assault on the field of medicine. It is an assault on tube-fed people. The entire purpose of science is to remove human bias from data collection. When studies are purposely designed to get the answer one desires, that is not even science. And these kinds of studies have absolutely no place in the healthcare profession.
I would like to give an example of one of these studies and then, share a story of the harm recently done to a child as a direct result of these practices. Sadly, there are many more such stories like the one I am writing in this blog post that I could share with you. It’s not an isolated or uncommon incident.
A study conducted by Nestle Health Science, titled “ILSI Task Force on enteral nutrition; estimated composition and costs of blenderized diets” can be found here. The investigators went to Brazil and state that enteral formula is available in Brazil, “permitting safe and reliable enteral nutrition therapy with quality control, both in the nosocomial and the home environment. Nonetheless, blenderized or homebrew tube diets (BTD) are still popular, especially for home use after hospital discharge as well as during home care by specialized health providers.”
They then continue to explain that blenderized diets have been shown to have high levels of bacterial contamination and basically, that a person cannot get the nutrients they need from food if they are fed through a feeding tube. In truth, no valid study has ever shown blenderized diets to be at a high risk of containing pathogenic bacteria. You can learn more about the studies they are referring to here and why they are not valid studies in this video.
Further, studies have shown that commercial enteral formulas used in hospitals have similar levels of bacteria as blenderized diets. I expound on this in much more detail in my book, Stand for Food. To state it simply, no properly conducted study has ever shown blenderized diets to be at a high risk of bacterial contamination, and the data we do have actually shows that tube-fed people that are fed a blenderized diet have a lower incidence of food poisoning than the general, orally-fed population. In other words, what Nestle Health Science says here is a lie.
They continue on, saying there is little control over osmolarity (which essentially means how many particles of substance there are in a specific unit of volume). They claim this lack of control means blenderized diets are inefficient and contribute to complications. No study ever conducted has yielded data that supports this statement. In fact, all studies on this subject consistently show patients do dramatically better on blenderized diets than on commercial enteral formula. Thus, what Nestle Health Science is saying here is another lie.
They explain, “It is worth mentioning that nutritional value of foodstuffs depends on geographical origin, ripeness, season of the year, and methods employed during processing, storage and cooking.” For once, Nestle Health Science says something that is true. The nutrition in food varies. The nutrition in one orange will not be exactly the same as the nutrition in another orange. No, the nutrients in blenderized diets are not precisely controllable.
Here is something else worth mentioning. That doesn’t matter. Can Nestle Health Science find any evidence in scientific studies that show that the nutrients fed to tube-fed people absolutely must be precisely controlled? In case you are wondering, the answer is no. Do the people who wrote this article drink nothing but commercial enteral formula because, otherwise, they don’t have any precise control over their nutrient intake? I would bet dimes to donuts that in spite of this variance in food, the authors of this article choose to consume food rather than formula.
Even if we are speaking of tube-fed people in the hospital, everything they are saying here would apply to orally-fed people in the hospital as well. One could not possibly precisely control the nutrient intake of patients eating the plates of food served by the cafeteria for the very same reason one could not precisely control the nutrients in a blenderized diet. Yet, hospitals everywhere continue to serve orally-fed patients food without panicking about a “lack of control” over the patients’ nutrient intake.
When you are writing a scientific article, you aren’t allowed to just make stuff up. You have to cite legitimate research for absolutely every claim you make in the article. This article does not do this. They claim that tube-fed people will have health complications if their nutrient intake is not precisely controlled. Yet, they cite no scientific study to support this. You know why? Because there aren’t any studies to support this. As I have mentioned, however, there are studies that show patients do dramatically better when they are fed real food along with all of its variations in nutrient intake than when they are fed commercial enteral formula with its precisely calculated nutrients.
The idea of “precision diets” first became a thing a little over 50 years ago. The makers of enteral formula, who invented this idea of precision diets, said that patients fed these precise diets would live to be 150 years old. Needless to say, they were incorrect, and precisely controlled diets don’t seem to have done people’s health any favors.
Here is some more information worth mentioning. The ridiculous formulas these companies push contain ingredients that are very well documented to contribute to medical problems, such as increased inflammation, decreased immune function, cardiovascular problems, liver problems, cardio-renal problems…does this sound like a diet that would be beneficial to someone sick enough to be in the hospital? Who cares if the carbohydrates are right at 55% if those carbohydrates are coming from terrible ingredients known to make people sick?
Nestle Health Science seems to enjoy talking percentages, so let’s talk percentages. According to basically every major health, dietary, and medical organization in the entire world, the percentage of calories gotten from sugar and ingredients like brown rice syrup, corn syrup, maltodextrins, and such should not exceed 10%. You’ll find that in these “precisely controlled” commercial enteral formulas, the percentage of calories from these ingredients is roughly 50%, 5 times the recommended limit.
We also know that synthetic vitamins, which are the only kinds of vitamins enteral formulas have, do not provide near the same benefits as those naturally found in food. For example, taking a vitamin C supplement will prevent you from developing scurvy, but it will not provide the benefits shown to be gained from a diet rich in foods high in vitamin C. Diets rich in foods high in vitamin C have been shown to provide strong cardiovascular protection among other benefits. Diets high in vitamin C supplements do not show the same benefits.
I could write pages and pages of examples just like this one. Synthetic vitamins do not provide near the benefits as those vitamins naturally found in food. A person with a micronutrient intake derived only from synthetic vitamins will not be as well nourished as a person with a micronutrient intake derived from real food. We also know that synthetic vitamins are not absorbed as well as those found naturally in food. Food has cofactors, enzymes, etc. that increase absorption of vitamins and minerals. Commercial enteral formulas have absolutely none of these things.
In the scientific literature, we find that people fed blenderized diets have blood levels relevant to nutrition in the normal range. They are not malnourished. I have personally seen, from the thousands of people I have met that feed a blenderized diet, children that routinely showed deficiencies in their nutrition-related blood levels while fed commercial enteral formula that were quickly corrected after changing to a blenderized diet.
Commercial enteral formula has no phytonutrients, which are found only in plant foods. Phytonutrients are absolutely vital for a person to experience optimal health.
Taking all of this in, it is shocking to read the statement these authors make that the idea of feeding blenderized diets should be considered “within the context of the rights of each patient to receive optimal nutritional care at all times, and the responsibility of the society and specialized health organizations to provide high quality nutrients, in order to foster health and correct malnutrition.” Absolutely none of the enteral formulas manufactured by Nestle Health Science provide high quality nutrients. Diets of sugar, unhealthful oils, protein powder and the equivalent of a Flinstones vitamin are absolutely not in any way providing “high quality nutrients.”
Sadly, many in the medical profession have fallen for these tactics utilized by Nestle Health Science. They use phrases like “lack of control” and “risk of complications” to frighten healthcare facilities into rejecting blenderized diets even though the scientific data does not in any way support these claims.
Because of these tactics, many healthcare facilities have made policies that forbid patients from being fed a blenderized diet while in the hospital. To state it more clearly, because of Nestle Health Science, many healthcare facilities have made policies that forbid patients from being fed a blenderized diet while in the hospital.
Many, many times, these policies have caused direct harm to patients. To state it clearly again, many, many times, Nestle Health Science caused direct harm to patients.
I have met family after family after family who were literally forced to feed their child in the hospital enteral formula that made their child vomit day and night because the hospital insisted this was the safer option. Why? Because Nestle Health Science and Abbott Nutrition told them it was safer without providing any real scientific data to back that up.
I want to emphasize this very strongly. There are hospitals that have a policy that states that it is safer for a child to be fed a diet of nothing but sugar, oil, protein powder and synthetic vitamins and that is causing the child to vomit repeatedly while they are already sick enough to be in the hospital than to simply feed the child food. Nestle Health Science and their horrifically and appallingly unethical tactics are largely the reason for these policies.
Who do these healthcare facilities think they are? They dictate to a parent what they can feed their child? The mother of the orally-fed child in the room next door can bring her child a happy meal, but the mother of the tube-fed child is forbidden from feeding her child whole grains and vegetables? And Nestle has the audacity to reference the “rights of patients”?
Just this past week, I met a mother with a daughter who was in the hospital for a scheduled open heart surgery. This child has thrived on a home blenderized diet. The hospital, however, does not allow blenderized diets. They forced this mother to feed a diet that makes her child sick while she was recovering from something as extreme as an open heart surgery. As the child vomited and risked aspiration and other complications, and as the mother fought with hospital administrators, the hospital continued to insist that a blenderized diet was a dangerous option and that enteral formula was the safe option.
After a short time, the child began to experience GI bleeding because of the hospital’s feeding requirements, and this caused the child to experience serious complications. She required blood transfusions and her hospital stay was substantially extended, which means her risk of contracting an infection were also increased since every day spent in a hospital increases that risk. Not to mention the unnecessary pain and suffering.
The mother put her foot down and began feeding her usual home blenderized diet in spite of this policy while threatening to consult a lawyer regarding the damage this hospital had done to her child. The vomiting stopped. The GI bleeding stopped. All of the complications this child was experiencing stopped.
It became clear that if this child had just been allowed to be fed food, LIKE ORALLY-FED CHILDREN ARE ALLOWED TO BE FED FOLLOWING OPEN HEART SURGERY, none of those complications would have happened, and she would be home now. Today, this child is still in the hospital recovering from everything cast onto her by this hospital policy that is not in any way founded upon legitimate science.
This child’s doctor had to face this mother after seeing the damage they had done. He said, “Sometimes, we doctors like to control everything, and it’s not always the best way.” That seems to be the closest to an apology she is going to get. I hope he will be more wise moving forward.
This doctor would have done well to listen to Florence Nightingale as she said, “You cannot diet a patient from a book, you cannot make up the human body as you would make up a prescription.”
Take all of this in. And then listen to the video at the bottom of this link that Nestle Health Science made about their Compleat Organic Blends. They called this “Project Love.” Seriously. This was actually “Project We Tried to Force People to Feed our Cheap Products that Were Making Children Sick, but More and More Parents were Figuring Out that our Products Make Children Sick, so Sales were Declining and We Had to Try a Different Strategy.”
There is only one project Nestle Health Science could do that could truthfully be called “Project Love.” And that would be a public confession of the terribly unethical practices they have willfully engaged in for so many years and a public apology for the many children and adults harmed by these practices.
I implore you to refuse to use these products. Nestle Health Science and Abbott Nutrition both need shut out of the world of enteral nutrition. They have harmed too many tube-fed people. They have lied too many times. They have launched too many assaults on the scientific process and the integrity real science requires. They have shown too often that profits are always the bottom line, even if it means making people sick.
This Compleat Organic Blends is just too little too late.
The best thing all of us could do for tube-fed people everywhere is to refuse these products and let them bomb. It is our way of showing that companies that use these tactics are not going to continue to experience success. We have the power to send that message. We just have to say no. With every package of this product that a tube-fed person uses, we communicate the opposite message and relinquish that power.
I have only touched on what science as a whole says about this issue in this blog post. For more in depth information, check out my book, Stand for Food.