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The Great Thickener Challenge

The Great Thickener Challenge

So maybe it’s not really great, but it was a challenge. So what in the heck am I talking about??

Have you ever looked at all those different brands of thickener? Sometimes you don’t know which will be the best for your patients. Between Thick-It, Simply Thick, Thick n Clear, ThickenUp it’s hard to decide which will be best for your patient. Maybe by best, we also need to think about the look, taste and consistency that will be the most palatable for your patient.

I think we’ve all had those patients that just won’t drink because you put “that stuff” in their drinks. Their family members say if they could just have a drink of something maybe they’ll feel better.

There is a very nice product out there called the Provale cup. By limiting the amount of liquid a patient receives, either 5cc or 10cc, the patient may then be able to safely drink thin liquids. The Provale cup is for another post.

Going to conferences, particularly, the ASHA Convention, there are samples of thickener to go around. Nestle Nutrition also provides samples of ThickenUp free of charge. I decided that one day I would mix these samples with water, using the same container and method to mix, the same water and thicken the water to nectar consistency, just to see the variation.

I used 4 ounces of water from our cooler, which is purified water. I put the 4 ounces in a shaker and shook the water mixed with the pre-measured packet of thickener for nectar consistency. I shook for 30 seconds and then poured the liquid in a small cup.

The liquids were allowed to sit our for 10 minutes then the taste test began.

The following are comments by patients, therapists and myself regarding each thickener, marked by number. I could only get 4 to sample the thickened drinks, which is not a significant number, but I’m not publishing this…..

1. Clear-bubbly
No added flavor
water with added flavor
no flavor
slightly sweet
tastes like water
looked good

Preferred by 4

2. Cloudy
Thick chalky tasting
left after taste
“looks thick”
thicker than #1
not bad
no flavor
very thick
looks terrible
tastes terrible
feels sticky
had to wait for sip

Preferred by 0

3. Cloudy
after taste
not palatable
tastes bad
thinner than 2
little thick
tastes-not too bad
looks bad

Preferred by 0

4. clear
slimy-coating after
flour taste
similar to #1
little thicker
looks good
too thick
after taste
sticking all over

Preferred by 0

5. clear
no over-powering flavor
no after taste
no flavor at all
looks ok
went down ok
no taste

Preferred by 0

6. cloudy
starchy taste
worst thing seen or tasted

Preferred by 0

7. cloudy
thick and clumpy
starchy taste
spit back out
too thick
tastes/looks terrible

Preferred by 0

There were many variations including the yield, the color varied from clear to cloudy. The consistency differed from a honey consistency to a slightly thicker than thin consistency.

The results:

#1 Simply Thick

#2 Thick It

#3 Thick It 2

#4 Thik and Clear

#5 Thicken Up Clear

#6 Thicken Up

#7 Thick and Easy

By a landslide, all 4 people chose Simply Thick as the best during this challenge.

Everyone should challenge themselves to get as many thickener samples as they can.  Try those thickeners and determine the quality of the thickeners so that you can make an educated recommendation for your patients to increase their willingness to comply with the liquids and to provide them with the best quality thickener available.

8 thoughts on “The Great Thickener Challenge

  1. Such good info, and right from your patients' mouths!
    Can anyone recommend which brand mixes up and stays mixed the best? Mom tells me that the thickener she's using for Dad,(Thicken-Up) is drifting to the bottom of the glass and the liquid is not thickening very much at all. But we like Thicken-Up because Dad doesn't mind it at all, and because it has the lowest carb count. 2g I think, so better for glycemic index than most thickeners. So which thickener will hold it's mix throughout a meal? That's my question.

  2. Simply Thick does hold really well. Most of the gum based thickeners hold up better than the cornstarch based powder thickeners, which tend to separate and continue to thicken over time.

  3. check out the Frazier free water protocol. Some people are forced to drink thickened water when they may not necessarily have to. And it's cruel to deprive people of clear, clean water.

  4. What about cost? Did you factor cost in to the challenge? Many thickeners are expensive and patients/families don’t have the resources for another medical cost

    1. No. I was only looking at the variation in thickeners. It’s not a study, more of an experiment.

  5. If you want to use a Provale cup it should be tested under instrumental. I have found they cause head/neck extension resulting in aspiration as patients want more to come out.

  6. […] of the drink as much as the traditional starch-based thickeners.  In fact, I wrote a previous post about how the various thickeners matched up at the time with SimplyThick as the clear […]

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