Dear Dietitian – Is IV vitamin therapy a good idea?
My girlfriend has been getting IV vitamin therapy and says she feels great. She insists I try it, but I want to know more before joining her. What do you think?
Intravenous (IV) vitamin therapies, also called IV cocktails, are available in high-end spas, places called drip bars, and some clinics. These infusions offer a variety of nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to antioxidants to amino acids (the building blocks of protein). They do not require a prescription, so you select the nutrient infusion you want, put your money down, and enjoy as the nutrients infuse into your vein.
The cost of these therapies range from about $120 to $300 per infusion. They claim to do everything from curing a hangover to boosting your immune system to making you look younger. Some make unproven claims to cure or prevent diseases. In September 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Texas took action against a drip bar for making a range of “deceptive and unsupported health claims” about their ability to treat serious diseases, such as cancer and congestive heart failure. The FTC order prevents the company from making such future claims unless they can be supported by scientific evidence.
Are these IV vitamins a good idea? The argument for using intravenous nutrients rather than getting them from your diet is that your body will absorb higher amounts from the bloodstream compared to the digestive tract. While this may be true, the infusions provide more nutrients than you need. Your body will absorb the amount it needs at that time, then release the rest in your urine. Essentially, you are flushing a lot of money down the toilet.
What your friend may be experiencing is the placebo effect. This is when someone experiences a beneficial effect from a treatment that cannot be attributed to the scientific properties of the therapy and, therefore, must be due to the belief that the treatment is working.
Another cause for concern with IV nutrient infusions is that most of these treatments are given by unlicensed professionals with little or no medical training. Risks include infection at the IV site, blood clots, and vein inflammation. Even worse, an infection could enter your bloodstream and spread throughout your body, requiring hospitalization.
While vitamin and mineral deficiencies occur in the US, they are rare in healthy people. Deficiencies are typically found in the elderly and those with certain diseases or clinical conditions. If you think you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test will determine if you need to take a supplement. Until then, your money may be better spent on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Until next time, be healthy!