Is Glucerna (Really) Good for Diabetics? Pros & Cons

Learn if Glucerna is a healthy choice if you live with diabetes and whether or not you should include it in your routine.

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by
Caroline Thomason
— Signos
Dietician + Diabetes Educator (CDCES)
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
June 12, 2024
December 28, 2023
— Updated:

Table of Contents

Glucerna is a popular blood sugar-friendly nutrition supplement tailored to folks who live with diabetes. While dietary supplements can be useful in helping you manage your health conditions, in this article, we will explore the pros and cons of Glucerna. Supplements are just that; they should supplement your nutrition plan without being a product you overly rely on to achieve your goal. 

We want to help you make the healthiest choice for you when it comes to improving your blood glucose with diabetes supplements. Let’s discuss Glucerna’s nutrition profile, its potential benefits, such as blood sugar management, and drawbacks, including digestive symptoms.

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What Is Glucerna?

Glucerna is a medical brand of nutrition products designed for individuals living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. These products are formulated to help manage blood sugar levels as part of a diabetes management plan by including ingredients that do not cause blood sugar spikes. Glucerna products typically include nutritional shakes, bars, and powders, and they are often enriched with specific nutrients, like slow-digesting carbohydrates, anti-inflammatory oils, and protein that get digested and absorbed over longer periods to help minimize blood sugar spikes.

Managing blood sugar spikes is a critical aspect of improving diabetes. While Glucerna can be a healthy part of your nutrition plan, you’ll want to look at other lifestyle factors, such as everything you’re eating in a day, how much activity you get, your sleep, and stress levels.

What Is Glucerna Used For?

Glucerna provides the body with slow-digesting carbs, protein, vitamins, and minerals, helping minimize blood sugar spikes after drinking or snacking. Great for folks who have diabetes, pre-diabetes, or other blood sugar concerns, Glucerna supplements have been shown in research to have a significantly lower impact on blood sugar spikes when compared to similar competitor products, according to a 2019 study in Nutrition for Diabetes.1 

Glucerna might be the right fit for you if you regularly skip meals, are looking for a healthy swap for a nutrition supplement you’re already using, or need the additional protein and calories in your diet but don’t want to compromise your blood sugars. This may be the case if you have a low appetite, need to gain weight, or are recovering from surgery and have diabetes. 

When measuring a food’s effect on blood sugar, many look to the glycemic index to explain how an item significantly increases blood sugar levels. The glycemic index runs on a scale from 0 to 100 and ranks carbohydrates based on their impact on blood sugar levels. High glycemic carbohydrates (i.e., white sugar or refined white bread) cause a rapid spike, while lower glycemic options (like whole grain bread) result in a slower rise. Foods with a glycemic index score of 55 or less are generally preferred for more stable blood sugar levels and are considered low glycemic. Glucerna scores as a low glycemic option on the glycemic index and seems to fare better for an overall blood sugar response than other meal replacement supplements. 

Glucerna Nutritional Facts

sugar-tester-and-different-diagrams-about-diabetes

Glucerna contains amounts of all three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fats. Per 8-fl oz serving size, Glucerna offers 9 g of fat, mostly coming from canola oil, an anti-inflammatory fat source. Vegetable oils and other polyunsaturated fats in the diet are correlated with a decreased incidence of diabetes and better health, according to a 2020 paper published in the Public Library of Science.2 Fortunately, Glucerna does not contain trans fats or unhealthy fats. Since fat helps slow down digestion, including fat as a primary ingredient here is a win for blood sugar and may even have some positive benefits for heart health. 

With 26 g of carbohydrates, Glucerna provides a good source of slow-release carbohydrates. If you live with diabetes, the goal is certainly not to cut all carbs out of your diet but rather to intentionally incorporate high-fiber, slow-releasing sources that help you regulate your blood sugar. Sucromalt, one ingredient in Glucerna, has been shown to have positive effects on blood sugar management in folks with diabetes, according to a randomized cross-over study in Nutrients.3 In addition to carbs, Glucerna packs 4 g of filling fiber per serving. Namely, the source of fiber comes from fructo-oligosaccharides, a prebiotic dietary fiber that may have properties helping to regulate and stabilize blood sugar levels.4

Lastly, with 10 g of protein per serving, Glucerna offers a healthy dose of blood sugar-stabilizing nutrients to boot. The protein in Glucerna primarily comes from milk sources, which appear to be helpful for blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, according to a 2019 study in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews.5 Protein helps you feel full longer and is uniquely beneficial to blood sugar when you eat it with carbohydrates. The combination of protein and carbs together slows down the rate at which food leaves our stomachs, keeping you feeling full for longer and improving your blood sugar response after the meal or snack.

Compared to other protein shakes on the market, Glucerna is relatively lower in protein than similar products. However, Glucerna contains CARBSTEADY®, the proprietary carbohydrate blend that has a modest impact on blood sugar.  Glucerna is also low in cholesterol, modest in sodium and added sugars, and a good source of various vitamins and minerals. Glucerna is fortified with a significant amount of the recommended daily value for calcium, folate, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin A, and more. Their product lines are gluten-free and safe for folks with lactose intolerance. Glucerna shakes come in flavors like rich chocolate, creamy strawberry, classic butter pecan, and homemade vanilla.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn more: </strong><a href="/blog/diabetic-diarrhea">Diabetic Diarrhea: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Tips</a>.</p>

Nutritional Information per 8-Ounce Serving

  • Calories:6 220 
  • Total Fat: 9 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
  • Cholesterol: <5mg
  • Sodium: 210 mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 26 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Total Sugars: 7 g
  • Protein: 10 g

Glucerna: Pros and Cons

While supplements for diabetes certainly have their place in a healthy lifestyle, they often have benefits and drawbacks to consider. It’s important that you take into consideration the pros and cons when considering whether or not a supplement is right for you. 

Pros

  • Great Protein Source<p style="margin: 0;"> Protein is a key player that helps stabilize blood sugar levels, increase feelings of fullness and satiety, and keep energy levels consistent throughout the day. Particularly when consumed earlier in the day, protein seems to help regulate blood sugar, meaning your levels over the course of a day look like rolling hills on a graph instead of spiky, jagged mountains, from a recent 2023 study in Nutrients.7 High protein meal replacement supplements also seem to be beneficial for weight loss, at least in the early stages, as seen in a 2018 paper published in the Journal of Obesity8<p>
  • Satiating <p style="margin: 0;">When you feel full after eating, you feel satiated. Thus, it is much easier to control hunger levels, stop eating when full, and leave the meal feeling “done.” Satiating foods tend to be high in fiber and protein and keep us full longer than options that are lower in these nutrients, as observed in a 2022 study in Nutrients.9 
    Consider pairing Glucerna with another satiating, blood sugar-friendly snack like nuts, cheese, yogurt, or boiled eggs for even more staying power. If you don’t feel completely full and satisfied from Glucerna shakes or powdered supplements, that’s normal, as these liquid options don’t always send the signal from our stomach to our brains that we are full<p>
  • Easily Available and Portable<p style="margin: 0;">Convenience is a huge factor in healthy eating and staying consistent long-term. Grabbing a nutritional shake or a bar on your way out the door might be the difference between a healthy snack holding you over until your next meal and deciding to run through the drive-through because you got too hungry while you were out<p> 

Cons

  • Contains Sweeteners<p style="margin: 0;">While sweeteners alone aren’t cause for concern, not everyone enjoys or tolerates alternative sweeteners. The most common sweeteners on the market are sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and saccharin. Some people find that artificial sweeteners are hyper-sweet, have an off-putting aftertaste, or cause unpleasant side effects like headaches or gastrointestinal distress. Fructose and sucralose are the two types of sweeteners used in Glucerna products. However, given the total balance of the nutrition profile with fiber and protein, these sweeteners do not increase blood sugar and, as long as they are well tolerated, are no major cause for concern9<p>
  • Possible Over-Dependence<p style="margin: 0;">With any supplement, you want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks and prevent over-reliance on supplements over food. If you’re regularly choosing Glucerna to replace your meals, fearful of eating food instead of using a supplement, or experiencing negative side effects from over-relying on Glucerna, you might want to evaluate how frequently you consume them<p> 
  • Contains Fructose<p style="margin: 0;">Fructose, a form of natural sugar most often found in fruit, is processed through the liver rather than directly absorbed into the bloodstream like other carb sources. This is helpful for keeping blood sugar levels low after consumption. However, some new research suggests that fructose, particularly in large quantities, might have negative health consequences, according to a 2019 study in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Obesity10<p>

Potential Risks and Side Effects of Glucerna

While the risks seem to be limited, there are some factors you’ll want to consider before regularly consuming Glucerna.

You’ll also want to consider your personal nutrition needs aside from diabetes, as well as your taste and texture preferences of nutrition supplements. If you don’t enjoy the taste, it will be challenging to stick with it for any length of time. 

Lack of Variety

In cases of over-reliance, you might be missing out on critical nutrients if you’re using supplements as your main form of nutrition. Diabetes supplements should fill the gaps in your nutrition rather than be responsible for providing most of your nutritional needs, particularly if you lack variety from all food groups, such as whole grains, lean protein, nuts, fish, fruits, and vegetables in your diet.

Vitamin E Contraindications

Glucerna is fortified with a variety of vitamins and minerals. If you are also taking a blood thinning medication, such as Coumadin, you will want to check with your doctor before adding multiple sources of vitamin E to your day. 

Niacinamide Side Effects

There is some research that points to niacinamide, one ingredient in Glucerna, being associated with elevated blood sugar levels. However, this isn’t a conclusive observation, and researchers agree we need more data to confirm whether or not this is true. 

Gastrointestinal Side Effects

Unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects are a major deterrent of supplements for many folks. If you’re already sensitive to artificial sweeteners, have a history of irritable bowel syndrome, or other GI concerns, check with your trusted healthcare provider or dietitian before adding this into your routine. 

Side effects may include but are not limited to:

  • Sickness
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Bloating

Glucerna products are generally recognized as safe for most people when used as directed, especially for individuals living with diabetes. However, any nutritional supplement or specialized product may have potential risks and unwanted side effects. Remember that individual responses may vary, and you can check with your healthcare provider to receive personalized medical recommendations. 

Is Glucerna Good For You?

blood-in-finger-after-testing-sugar

Glucerna is a blood sugar-friendly meal or snack replacement supplement designed for folks with diabetes or pre-diabetes in mind. With anti-inflammatory fats, filling fiber, slow-releasing carbs, and satiating protein, you’ll receive a balance of nutrients that won’t spike your blood sugar. 

Glucerna may have some unwanted side effects, but they seem to be limited to select groups. If you have gastrointestinal concerns, are intolerant to artificial sweeteners, or currently take blood thinners, you might want to check with your doctor first. Remember, in addition to supplements for diabetes, it’s important to choose whole foods, maintain a balanced diet, and exercise regularly to manage blood sugar levels with a healthy lifestyle. 

Learn More About Healthy Nutrition With Signos’ Expert Advice

A Signos continuous glucose monitor (CGM) provides easy, convenient blood sugar monitoring right on your phone. By accessing your blood sugar levels in real-time, you can observe the impact of food, medications, beverages, and exercise. A CGM helps you better comprehend your personal response to various lifestyle choices and helps you pinpoint effective adjustments to lower your blood sugar levels. Signos' CGM can enhance your health as you strive to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. 

Explore nutrition and healthy habits further on Signos' blog, and take our brief quiz to assess if Signos is the right fit for your needs.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Keep reading: </strong><a href="/blog/what-alcohol-can-diabetics-drink-type-2">Best Alcoholic Drinks for People with Type 2 Diabetes: A List</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Mottalib A, Abrahamson MJ, Pober DM, Polak R, Eldib AH, Tomah S, Ashrafzadeh S, Hamdy O. Effect of diabetes-specific nutrition formulas on satiety and hunger hormones in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr Diabetes. 2019 Sep 24;9(1):26. 
  2. Neuenschwander M, Barbaresko J, Pischke CR, Iser N, Beckhaus J, Schwingshackl L, Schlesinger S. Intake of dietary fats and fatty acids and the incidence of type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. PLoS Med. 2020 Dec 2;17(12):e1003347. 
  3. Angarita Dávila L, Bermúdez V, Aparicio D, Céspedes V, Escobar MC, Durán-Agüero S, Cisternas S, de Assis Costa J, Rojas-Gómez D, Reyna N, López-Miranda J. Effect of Oral Nutritional Supplements with Sucromalt and Isomaltulose versus Standard Formula on Glycaemic Index, Entero-Insular Axis Peptides and Subjective Appetite in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomised Cross-Over Study. Nutrients. 2019 Jun 28;11(7):1477.
  4. Le Bourgot, C., Apper, E., Blat, S., & Respondek, F. (2018). Fructo-oligosaccharides and glucose homeostasis: a systematic review and meta-analysis in animal models. Nutrition & metabolism, 15, 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-018-0245-3
  5. Hidayat K, Du X, Shi BM. Milk in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: The potential role of milk proteins. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2019 Nov;35(8):e3187.
  6. Glucerna Nutrition Facts. Abbott Nutrition. Accessed December 20, 2023.
  7. Xiao K, Furutani A, Sasaki H, Takahashi M, Shibata S. Effect of a High Protein Diet at Breakfast on Postprandial Glucose Level at Dinner Time in Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 2022 Dec 24;15(1):85. 
  8. Guo X, Xu Y, He H, Cai H, Zhang J, Li Y, Yan X, Zhang M, Zhang N, Maddela RL, Nicodemus-Johnson J, Ma G. Effects of a Meal Replacement on Body Composition and Metabolic Parameters among Subjects with Overweight or Obesity. J Obes. 2018 Dec 26;2018:2837367. 
  9. Lim JJ, Liu Y, Lu LW, Barnett D, Sequeira IR, Poppitt SD. Does a Higher Protein Diet Promote Satiety and Weight Loss Independent of Carbohydrate Content? An 8-Week Low-Energy Diet (LED) Intervention. Nutrients. 2022 Jan 26;14(3):538.
  10. Zhang R, Noronha JC, Khan TA, McGlynn N, Back S, Grant SM, Kendall CWC, Sievenpiper JL. The Effect of Non-Nutritive Sweetened Beverages on Postprandial Glycemic and Endocrine Responses: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2023 Feb 20;15(4):1050.
  11. Mai BH, Yan LJ. The negative and detrimental effects of high fructose on the liver, with special reference to metabolic disorders. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2019 May 27;12:821-826.

About the author

Caroline Thomason is a dietitian, diabetes educator, and health writer based in Washington, DC.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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