Nutritional Supplements

By: Sanket Patel

Enteral nutrition products are medical foods used to supplement an individual’s nutritional needs.  Many patients require enteral nutrition products to provide nutrition to individuals unable to ingest food or liquid as a consequence of a medical condition, or those who have impaired digestion.  Usually, enteral nutrition products are formulated as semisynthetic liquids that are administered through a feeding tube.  However, not all patients use enteral nutrition products as a sole source of nutrition.  Some enteral nutrition products are used to supplement a patient’s nutritional needs, especially among the aging population.  Many individuals affected by chronic diseases use enteral nutrition to supplement their diet.

Some clinical studies suggest that having appropriate nutrition may improve a patient’s quality of life and clinical outcome.  This may also lead to a decrease in overall healthcare costs.

Enteral nutrition is not only for patients who need the extra supplementation but also for healthy individuals who have active lifestyles, are attempting to lose weight, or seeking a high protein supplement.  Healthcare providers sometimes recommend these products for patients who require supplementation, experience decreased appetite, have difficulty chewing or swallowing solid foods, or require increased nutrition for recovery after an injury or surgery.

There are three categories of enteral products used depending on the patients’ requirements:

Category Comments
Polymeric formulas
  • Most frequently used enteral products
  • Can generally be safely used for meal replacement or self-care when taken orally
  • Designed for patients with normal digestive processes
  • Contain macronutrients in the form of intact proteins, fatty acids, or oils plus carbohydrates
  • Majority of individuals who need nutritional support tolerate and thrive with standard polymeric formulas
Oligomeric formulas
  • Rarely consumed orally because of poor palatability
  • Require medical supervision
  • Sometimes known as predigested (requiring minimal digestion) or elemental supplements; contain hydrolyzed or partially hydrolyzed proteins in the form of free amino acids or peptides
  • Carbohydrates are less complex
  • Fat content is usually altered to enhance absorption in patients with impaired absorption
Modular formulas
  • Formulated to supplement a single macronutrient, such as protein powder, medium-chain triglyceride oil, and powdered flavored glucose polymers
  • Can be taken with other foods to increase the caloric and protein content consumed