Lounges infusing vitamins are popping up everywhere. This popular trend claims to boost your immune system; reduce toxins and even enhance your appearance. This week I examine the trend of IV vitamins and inject some science into the equation.
Intravenous (IV) vitamin therapy is a method of administering vitamins and minerals directly into the blood stream. The concept isn’t new. Hospitals commonly use a drip to administer essential nutrients for patients with complex medical conditions. Single nutrients such as iron or vitamin B12 are also often administered this way when there’s a nutrient deficiency,
The cocktail of vitamins being given by clinics are often done so without qualified medical professionals or a proper medical diagnosis. These alternative clinics are giving nutrients to patients with chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, auto-immune disorders and depression. They’re also making promises to people who have sleep deprivation or those that simply want to look better and feel more energised.
Clinics claim that patients will feel an immediate therapeutic effect as injections bypass the digestive system. They also promise that the effect will be significant as they’ll receive a large dose of specific vitamins tailored to their needs. These claims are dangerous because they’re not backed by solid, scientific evident or robust, clinical trials in humans.
The use of IV vitamins to cure disease states and ailments is concerning. Trials to date have mostly proven a placebo effect. One review often cited examined the use of a Myers cocktail that uses a solution of magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and B vitamins. The evidence was anecdotal from singular case studies. Another looked at IV vitamin therapy for fibromyalgia in 34 people over 8 weeks and found only a placebo effect.
The Australian Medical Association has criticised IV clinics stating there’s no clear evidence of benefit. At best it may have a band aid effect for some conditions. There’s clear evidence of risk though. It’s well established that vitamins and minerals can be harmful in large doses. Clinics often don’t have access to a client’s medical history which may potentially put them at further risk if they have any underlying medical conditions.
IV nutrients can lead to fluid overload in people that have existing heart, kidney or blood pressure conditions. A large dose of potassium could induce a heart attack in a susceptible patient. Injecting anything into the body also exposes the body to microbes. This can lead to infection or an allergic reaction. Vein irritation and inflammation may also occur which is very painful.
The IV wellness fad is expensive. It’s not covered by private health insurance as it’s an alternative therapy still lacking evidence. It takes advantage of vulnerable people with chronic and debilitating conditions and those who want a quick fix to how they look and feel. Anyone who is considering this treatment should first discuss it with a qualified medical professional.
Social media is packed with images of celebrities and influencers getting their IV vitamin therapy. I would recommend leaving the singing and injecting to Madonna and Adele for now. The majority of us could do with being a little less vein.