Nobody likes needles. So would you believe people are rolling up their sleeves to receive high-dose vitamin infusions into their veins—by choice? Celebs including Rihanna, Rita Ora, Simon Cowell, and Madonna are reportedly fans. But the fad isn’t limited to Hollywood alone. Companies such as VitaSquad in Miami and The I.V. Doctor in New York offer vitamin drips to anyone. Some even do it in your own home. [Tweet this news!]
For an infusion, vitamins are added to a solution containing the same salt concentration as your blood to aid absorption and take about 20 to 30 minutes. Infusions are relatively painless. With VitaSquad, clients choose from a menu of options, each containing a different combination of vitamins depending on why you’re receiving it. Options include: boosting immunity, curing a hangover, improving sexual function, fat burning, de-stressing, overcoming jet lag, and more. With VitaSquad, infusions range from $95 to $175.
But, is a prick worth opening your wallet for? “Although there haven’t been any randomized controlled studies, people notice an immediate dramatic effect after receiving an infusion,” says Jesse Sandhu, M.D., emergency medicine physician and medical director of VitaSquad. Not so fast, though. “The mistake is assuming something that feels good in the short term is necessarily good for you in the long term,” says David Katz, M.D., clinical instructor in medicine at Yale School of Public Health. Simply put, there’s not enough scientific evidence to suggest it’s beneficial, safe, or healthy. There’s no question that patients experience an immediate pick-me-up, Katz reiterates, but that may be due to a placebo effect plus increased blood flow and increased blood volume from the liquids—especially if you were dehydrated beforehand.
Katz’s major concern: Infusing vitamins through your veins bypasses your G.I. system. This happens to be the exact reason proponents of the infusions love it. “With vitamin C, for example, it’s immediately available for cellular use when you infuse it directly into the veins. But the same amount would cause G.I. upset if you tried to take it by mouth,” Sadhura says.
Circumventing your digestive system, however, could put you at risk. That’s because your digestive tract has several layers of defense—from antibodies in your saliva to your liver— that filter out potentially harmful molecules that could cause an allergic reaction, Katz says. “You bypass those safeguards when you inject something directly into your bloodstream.” Katz is also concerned by the at-home approach: “The risk of infection goes up any time you take IV lines or any medical equipment outside of a standard healthcare setting,” he says.
Vitamin infusions aren’t entirely without their merits, however. Katz offers them, including what’s known as a Myers’ cocktail—a combination of vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins—in his office and has seen benefits in patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and malabsorption issues. “We don’t know the mechanism, but the effect may have something to do with improved circulation helping to relieve pain and get people nutrients that aren’t being absorbed through their digestive tract,” he says.
But for a healthy individual looking for an extra boost? At best, Katz says infusions are no more than a short-lived quick fix. “If you need to feel better, identify why you’re not feeling well, whether it’s poor diet, not enough exercise, too much alcohol, dehydration, lack of sleep, or too much stress, and address it at its origins in order to experience a long-lasting meaningful benefit,” he says.
What do you think about this trend? Would you try a vitamin infusion? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.