Vitamin infusion therapy - For and Against
There is a growing trend for Vitamin Infusion Therapy (IV Therapy) in which vitamins and other substances are administered directly into the blood.
The practice is very popular in Asia where IV drips are offered in beauty salons, often by unlicensed and unqualified practitioners. In the US, a bus will even come to your house to offer infusions as part of a party package, to "cure" hangovers. Treatments can be very expensive, costing anything from £120 to £3,000 in one London clinic BBC reports.
The needle – a wellness regime-must
The treatment has taken the once cringe-worthy experience of being stuck with a needle and turned it into a wellness regimen-must. It’s even got a long list of A-list celebrities — from Rihanna to Adele — backing it.
The first IV vitamin drips were developed and administered by Dr. John Myers in the 1970s. His research led to the popular Myers’ Cocktail. These types of infusions generally take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and take place within a medical office with a licensed medical professional observing the infusion. While you’re undergoing an IV vitamin drip, your body is receiving a higher concentration of the vitamins themselves. A vitamin that’s taken by mouth gets broken down in the stomach and digestive tract, and is limited on how much can be absorbed (50 percent). If, however, the vitamin is given through an IV, it’s absorbed at a much higher percentage (90 percent).
Vitamins or minerals as ingredients
Commonly seen ingredients in an IV vitamin drip are vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, and calcium. IV vitamin drips may also contain amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and antioxidants, such as glutathione. Talk with your doctor about what nutrients you may be lacking.
Vitamins are infused at IV drip vitamin clinics and usually contain either a single vitamin — such as vitamin C — or a cocktail of vitamins and minerals.
What are the risks?
There’s a risk of infection with IV vitamin therapy. Any time you have an IV inserted, it creates a direct path into your bloodstream and bypasses your body’s first defense mechanism against bacteria: your skin. Although the risk of infection is unlikely, it’s important to consult with a licensed medical professional who will perform the therapy to manage this risk and ensure you have a healthy vitamin infusion.
On the other hand, there’s the risk of getting “too much of a good thing” with IV vitamin drips. It is possible to receive too much of a specific vitamin or mineral, which can increase the risk of adverse effects. For example, people with kidney disease cannot remove certain electrolytes and minerals from the body very quickly.
The treatments are increasingly popular, particularly as a quick fix or hangover cure - but there is no evidence of benefits and they can potentially be dangerous," Marcela Fiuza, from the British Dietetic Association commented to BBC.
Within a medical setting, we would never infuse anything intravenously, unless we absolutely had to," says Sophie Medlin, who used to work as a clinical dietitian and as a lecturer in nutrition and dietetics at King's College London.
Benefits are minimal
Lisa Rogers, from the World Health Organization, thinks that people are being overzealous in their ingestion of extra vitamins.
Force-feeding vitamins into the veins via a drip could even put people at risk of a potential overdose, warns Ms Medlin.
IV drips push vitamins into our bloodstream in a force-fed way. We will probably just excrete at least 90% of what's being infused in, so actually the benefits are very minimal, if any at all, and the risks massively outweigh the benefits," she says.