If swallowing vitamin supplements is giving you trouble, you can now have them infused into your veins through an intravenous drip. Seriously. Why waste time with digestion right?
It’s becoming quite a popular fad for the rich, famous and anyone else desperately seeking a high dose of vitamins without chewing.
However, if you’re considering hopping on the bandwagon, you’ll need to have some extra cash about; each session can range between US $350 – $1,000. That’s quite a price to pay considering you can just get those vitamins (and more) in the fruits & vegetables section of your grocery store.
Why the sudden craze?
Aside from the obvious – vitamins being beneficial in treating vitamin deficiencies – new research is showing that vitamin C can help treat sepsis (inflammation from infection) and certain types of hearing loss.
The biggest incentive is that it can sharpen concentration and help reduce fatigue, at least according to the early evidence. However, the catch is that this effect has only been found from intravenous vitamin C supplementation, not through pills or food.
The reason it might work is because vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, which removes reactive oxidants that cause the damage and aging of cells. (Note: it’s possible to just eat oranges, which are an excellent source of Vitamin C, too). This undesirable but inevitable process is known as oxidative stress.
This is the reason that big name celebrities, such as Madonna and Victoria Beckham, are queuing up to get their next vitamin fix. Of course, once celebrities are on board with something, the popularity will always skyrocket (the exception being Tom Cruise and Scientology perhaps).
The study that supports this health craze contains several flaws: the sample size was very moderate (only 141 subjects participating), fatigue was measured through subjective self-assessment and there was no relationship found between fatigue and oxidative stress.
To the study’s credit, it was a double-blind randomised controlled trial, the highest quality of study because it removes bias and placebo effects from impacting results.
The flip-side: risks of IV supplements
Even though vitamins are a “natural” nutrient, that doesn’t mean they’re always safe. After all, intravenous vitamins are synthetic. Furthermore, being natural certainly doesn’t mean they’re safe at any dose.
Some is good does not mean more is better.
Taking vitamins intravenously has its dangers. Apart from the obvious risk of infection from needles, especially if self-administered, there’s also the risk of toxicity from excessive vitamins in the blood.
For example fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and D are not excreted very easily and therefore will build up in the body at high doses. Toxic levels of those vitamins can lead to nervous system issues, muscular weakness and kidney problems. In fact the long-term damage can be quite nasty.
This craze has now started to gain traction in Australia. Dr. Stephen Parnis, from the Australian Medical Association, told the Sydney Morning Herald:
‘For the vast majority of Australians there is no benefit of mega doses of vitamins. Vitamin drips are a potentially toxic marketing ploy. Supplementation is unnecessary for the normally nourished who can achieve all the results promised through eating a range of fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat and exercising on a regular basis.’
What’s natural now?
We’ve evolved to take vitamins from foods, and we’re already pushing the boundaries with countless varieties of pills, some of which don’t even work. Perhaps artificial vitamins straight into the veins is a little over the top?
Yes, you might be super busy and struggling with fatigue, and IV supplementation may help. However, regularly sleeping 7-8 hours each night, eating real food, getting regular exercise and making time for a healthier work-life balance would work just as well, if not better.
So what do you think? Do intravenous vitamin supplements have a place in healthcare?
Want to ensure medical teams such as AmeriCares receive the support they deserve to continue providing healthcare? Sign the petition here!