Vitamin jabs: what’s all the hype about?

You may have seen headlines recently talking about intravenous vitamins therapy and how it has become a wellness trend that’s often shared in social media. This involves receiving a vitamin or a combination of vitamins and minerals through an intravenous drip. The infusion can last from 15 minutes to few hours and prices can set you off anything between £100 and £800 per single treatment. There are a number of clinics in the UK which offer these types of  treatments. So what do these clinics claim they can help you with? Well, take your pick! Anti-aging, anti-stress, fat burning, immunity stimulating or brain boosting. There is a solution for almost anything! Some of the clinics go even further, by offering to treat medical conditions, such as asthma, allergies, migraines and fibromyalgia, using vitamins IV drips.

Celebrities, such as Rihanna, Rita Ora and Katy Perry, have all tried it. So, do vitamins IV drips really work? What’s the evidence behind this wellness trend? Do we really need vitamins to be injected straight into the bloodstream? Let’s explore the answers to all of these questions.

To start with, there are no clinical studies to support any of the health benefits these clinics are claiming, so the long-term effects of taking vitamin injections for wellness reasons are unknown. Most of the clinics selling the benefits of such injections, claim that their formulations contain high levels of vitamins and minerals delivered directly to the bloodstream, which means that the effects are “instant”. Water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins cannot be stored in the body. So, the body only uses what it requires immediately, and any excess is expelled in the urine. So, a high proportion of an expensive injection can end up being flushed down the toilet! High levels of vitamins and minerals can be harmful. Fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, can especially be dangerous, as the excess doesn’t get eliminated from the body but  gets stored in fat tissues. If high doses of these vitamins are taken on a regular basis, these accumulate and can be harmful. For example, high levels of vitamin A can damage the bones. Similarly, having too much vitamin D can lead to high levels of calcium building up in the body. This can in turn can cause damage to the bones, heart and kidneys in the long-term.

Some of the claims that a number of the clinics are making are simply dubious. Vitamins and minerals are classed as food supplements in the UK. Therefore, they should not make any claims to prevent or treat any medical condition. The latter is reserved for medicines, which -unlike food supplements – have to undergo extensive testing and clinical trials before they can acquire a licence from the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) to treat people. So, if you see a clinic advertising a vitamin or food supplement to treat asthma symptoms, run away! Vitamins and food supplements have to comply, though, with EFSA claims. The European Food Safety Authority reviews and assesses scientific evidence before it authorises nutrition and health claims related to food and food supplements. This is a complicated subject for another day, but if you want to check whether a claim related to a vitamin or food supplement is authorised (meaning there is enough scientific evidence behind it) or unauthorised, check EFSA’s nutrition and health claims register.

Having said all of the above, vitamin injections can be an important part of treating people with certain medical conditions, such as a vitamin deficiency, under the supervision of a healthcare professional. For example vitamin B12 deficiency, depending on the cause, can be treated with vitamin B12 injections. But these should be given via the intramuscular rather than the IV route. So, there is no need for intravenous therapy here.

Most of us should be able to get the vitamins and minerals we need from a healthy, varied and balanced diet. However, some people can benefit from taking food supplements. Women who are pregnant or trying for a baby should take a daily supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid, from the time they stop contraception until the end of the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Children between 6 months and five years should take a daily supplement containing vitamins A, C and D. Similarly, all adults are advised to think about taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, during winter and autumn; as our bodies don’t make enough vitamin D from sunlight in the darker months. These supplements are always taken in the oral form.

If you’re looking for ways to boost your health and improve your wellbeing, a good place to start is to look into your lifestyle. Stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly can help you lead a healthier and happier life!

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