Glucerna is a brand of meal replacement shakes and bars. It’s made by Abbott and designed specifically for people with type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes and type 1 diabetes may also use Glucerna.

These products are low in calories and sugar and high in protein. They also contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and acesulfame potassium, which may cause potential health risks.

When Glucerna is included as part of a diet plan, it offers some promise in terms of weight and blood sugar (glucose) management. Though the products may provide some assistance, be aware of possible complications.

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Different flavors of Glucerna, such as vanilla and chocolate, may contain different ingredients, but all varieties offer the same key nutrients.

According to Abbott, the manufacturer of Glucerna, an 8-ounce bottle of Homemade Vanilla Liquid contains 180 calories. About 80 of these calories are from fat. While the product contains no trans fat, it offers a total of 9 grams of fat, with 1 gram of saturated fat. It’s low in cholesterol with less than 5 milligrams (mg) per bottle.

All flavor varieties of Glucerna Original Shake contain 10 grams of protein to help keep you full — this is about the equivalent of 1 1/2 eggs. An 8-ounce bottle has 4 grams of fiber and 16 grams of carbs, including 4 grams of added sugar.

The shakes contain 210 grams of sodium per serving and between 380 and 470 mg of potassium, or between 8 and 10 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for adults, depending on the flavor variety.

Glucerna Original Shake (Homemade Vanilla Liquid), 8 ounces

Fat9 g
Cholesterol<5 mg
Protein10 g
Fiber4 g
Carbohydrates16 g
Sodium210 g
Potassium380 mg

Along with other key nutrients, Glucerna contains 20 percent or more of the DV of the following:

  • iron
  • calcium
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin A
  • magnesium
  • folate

When it comes to diabetes, the goal is to keep your blood sugar within your target range. High blood glucose (hyperglycemia) over time can lead to serious complications, including blurry vision, nerve damage, and kidney disease.

It’s important to monitor your carb intake when you have diabetes because carbohydrates directly raise blood sugar. Fast-digesting carbohydrates, such as soda, can lead to spikes in blood sugar.

Glucerna contains carbohydrates that are less likely to lead to blood glucose spikes. Over time, replacing a fast-acting carbohydrate snack with a Glucerna product might help improve your management of blood sugar and diabetes symptoms.

Meal replacement bars and shakes may help with weight management by reducing calorie intake. Nutritional shakes and bars are known for having low calorie counts. But most brands contain a lot of sugar, making them a low-nutrient choice for people with diabetes.

According to Abbot, Glucerna is different because the products are lower on the glycemic index and contain less sugar. Glucerna’s Hunger Smart shakes also offer 15 grams of protein per 10-ounce serving, which is more than the average 10 grams in other dietary shakes.

Some Glucerna products may also contain varying amounts of:

  • vitamin C
  • selenium
  • vitamin E

The basic features of Glucerna may sound good, but to see how these products measure up, it’s important to know more about the nutrients you need for type 2 diabetes.

Carbohydrates can raise blood sugar. This is why it’s important to eat high fiber carbohydrates and other types of carbohydrates that the body processes more slowly. Additionally, low-glycemic index (low-GI) foods may help to minimize blood sugar spikes. Examples include:

  • steel-cut oats
  • whole wheat (stone-ground)
  • beans and legumes
  • whole fruit, such as pears, grapefruit, oranges, and apples
  • nonstarchy vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus

Glucerna is designed to provide the body with carbohydrates that are slower digesting, much like low-GI foods. While Glucerna may complement a blood sugar–friendly diet when used occasionally, aim to balance your diet with a variety of low-GI foods, like those listed above.

The protein in Glucerna products may be helpful for diabetes. Protein does not increase blood sugar. Protein also satisfies hunger longer so you’re less likely to eat too many carbs.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most adults, depending on their age, activity level, gender, or medical condition, require between 46 and 56 grams of protein daily. If you do not get enough protein in your diet, the high protein content in Glucerna may help.

However, whole food protein sources may be a better option. Fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, lean red meat, beans, and legumes are excellent sources of natural protein.

While Glucerna products may be blood sugar–friendly replacements for other snack foods and meals, they’re still processed foods. Increasingly, ultra-processed foods are associated with negative health outcomes, including overweight, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even type 2 diabetes.

To lower their carb content while maintaining sweetness, Glucerna’s shakes include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Research on whether artificial sweeteners are helpful or harmful to health is conflicting.

Some studies suggest that these sweeteners can increase sugar cravings and lead to overeating, which can both be harmful to health, especially for someone with diabetes.

Other studies also suggest that certain artificial sweeteners may actually alter insulin sensitivity.

Further, when used as a meal replacement, Glucerna may be replacing meals made of whole foods. In most cases, whole, unprocessed foods are a better choice than highly processed options.

Glucerna shakes and snacks are unlikely to cause any severe side effects. The greatest risk lies in possible overreliance on the products for diabetes management.

Getting enough protein and managing your carbohydrate intake is important, but you may also need to manage your sleep hygiene and stress levels, and exercise regularly to maintain good blood glucose levels. Plus, whole foods provide the best nutritional value, no matter what a supplement label might claim.

Another consideration is weight loss. Low calorie, high protein meal replacements may gradually help you lose weight when you combine them with an exercise plan and nutrient-rich diet.

Eating too many Glucerna products may actually hinder your weight loss efforts if you add them to your existing diet instead of using them as meal replacements.

Glucerna is a meal replacement or supplement made specifically for individuals with diabetes. Ensure is a meal replacement or supplement that provides calories, vitamins, and minerals but is not made specifically for people with diabetes in mind.

As such, the nutrition profile of Ensure is slightly different than Glucerna. Ensure has more calories but less fat and slightly less protein than Glucerna. Notably, Ensure is significantly lower in fiber and has about double the amount of carbohydrates and sugar compared with Glucerna.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrition information for both products:

Total Fat9 g6 g
Saturated Fat1 g1 g
Protein10 g9 g
Total Carbohydrate16 g33 g
Dietary Fiber4 g1 g
Total Sugars4 g10 g
Sodium210 mg210 mg

The vitamin and mineral content of both meal replacement beverages are relatively similar to each other, though Glucerna contains a higher amount of vitamins D and C, and Ensure offers slightly more vitamin E.

Glucerna may be a better meal replacement or supplement than Ensure for people with diabetes. The higher amount of sugar and total carbohydrates as well as the lower fiber content in Ensure will increase blood sugar more rapidly and substantially than the amounts found in Glucerna.

That said, Ensure does make a product called Ensure Diabetes Care that is specially formulated to help manage blood sugar and support weight management in people with diabetes. It’s available as a powder and must be mixed with water before consumption.

Ensure Diabetes Care is sweetened with artificial sweeteners and provides less sugar than Ensure Original. It is also slightly higher in fiber than Ensure Original but still offers less than Glucerna.

Both Glucerna and Ensure are made by the same company, Abbott.

Successfully managing type 2 diabetes requires changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Glucerna meal replacement shakes and snack bars may help if you have trouble managing your diet on your own. Still, it’s important to remember that Glucerna is not a substitute for a nutrient-dense diet. Simply consuming Glucerna products while continuing to eat low-nutrient meals will not lead to successful diabetes management.

Glucerna is sometimes used as a weight-loss tool. You should discuss this with your doctor before using Glucerna in this way.

Speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine if Glucerna may be an appropriate product for you on occasion.