Drip vs. pop: This new way to get a dose of vitamins is growing in popularity. (Photo: Corbis/Yahoo)
If you’ve been scrolling through your Instagram feed and spotted your favorite celebs hooked up to an IV, don’t freak—they’re probably not sick. They may just be getting a megadose of nutrients through an intravenous vitamin drip.
Typically seen in hospital rooms, vitamin IVs have burst onto the wellness scene in a big way over the past few months. Proponents say they feel energized, clear-headed, and all-around better for days after getting an IV infusion — but do those claims stand up? We asked the experts.
Where The Trend Began:
Intravenous vitamins first gained popularity with the Myers’ cocktail. Developed in the 1970s by John Myers, MD, it contains high doses of vitamin C, vitamin B, magnesium, and calcium — though many doctors now add the antioxidant glutathione. The mix, pushed intravenously, is supposed to boost energy and immunity, topping off depleted vitamin stores and helping patients to stay alert and better able to fight off illness.
Related: Should You Try An IV For Hangovers?
The practice has a number of purported benefits. Some doctors give patients high doses of vitamin C before surgery as a way to speed the healing time of wounds. Medical students, rumor has it, recuperate from hangovers — and brutal working hours — by running saline IVs infused with vitamins. And now celebrities, including Kelly Osbourne, Rihanna, and Miley Cyrus, are turning to the high-dose vitamin drips to stay healthy and energized while working around the clock. At around $200 to $400 a pop, the treatments aren’t cheap, but a high price tag hasn’t kept fans away.
Kelly Osbourne was all smiles during an IV treatment. (Photo: Instagram/kellyosbourn)
What The Science Says:
Vitamin IVs are a “secret remedy that’s been used for years by alternative practitioners,” says NutriDrip co-founder Maurice Beer, MD (NutriDrip is a mobile IV treatment company based in New York City). But while the practice has a growing, vocal fan base, there isn’t much research to back up the benefits. One 2009 study looked at the Myers’ cocktail as a possible treatment for fibromyalgia pain, but found no significant differences between those treated with the cocktail and those given a placebo. A 2014 study found that high doses of vitamin C administered intravenously show promise in treating Epstein-Barr viral infections, and a 2013 study found that vitamin C given intravenously shows potential in helping to decrease inflammation in cancer patients.
Miley Cyrus posted an IV vitamin picture earlier this month, captioned: “We got nufffffin but love & vittys in our veinzzzz #vitaminpush”. (Photo: Instagram.com/mileycyrus)
These are all promising insights, but most of the findings are too specific to say for sure whether vitamin IVs can benefit the average person’s health. “There’s not a lot of research — most of this is anecdotal evidence,” says Frank Lipman, MD, founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center and vitamin IV practitioner. “But I’ve seen that [patients] get better quicker than normal.” Lipman is selective in prescribing IVs, and says he’s seen the treatment revitalize those who are worn out and help others fight off illness.
Some experts chalk this up to the fact that the nutrients enter the bloodstream directly. “When nutrients are taken intravenously, they bypass the normal absorptive process, which means the nutrients are received in a more concentrated form than taken orally,”Grace Fjeldberg, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic tells Yahoo Health. “Oral supplements require digestion and absorption to properly transport these nutrients to the bloodstream. In this process, some of the nutrients may not fully be absorbed, as the body can only utilize a certain amount of nutrition at one time.” Adds Lipman: “An IV is also a way of getting nutrients such as glutathione that are known to be more difficult to absorb orally.”
While this is, seemingly, a positive for everyone, it’s especially beneficial for certain types of people. “Those who suffer from gastrointestinal disease and cannot fully absorb nutrients via the digestive system … may benefit from IV nutrition,” Fjeldberg says. “People who have a known deficiency and don’t respond to oral supplementation may also benefit from IV nutrition to restore current low values.” That said, adds Fjeldberg, “this normal digestive process and limited absorption is likely protective in nature to help make sure the body is receiving the correct amount of nutrition.”
While the current research doesn’t prove any concrete benefits of vitamin IVs, there aren’t any pressing reasons to avoid trying one. As long as the IV contains only water-soluble vitamins (like the Myers’ cocktail does), there’s little risk of overdosing. If you have an excess of vitamins, your body will natural secrete it (Read: you’ll pee it out).
As with any IV treatment, be sure to visit a trained medical professional who follows all safety regulations. You should disclose your medical history before receiving an IV, as well as any medications or supplements you’re currently taking.
If you feel fatigued on a regular basis, a vitamin IV might help temporarily — but Fjeldberg cautions that it’s important to address the root cause. “The average run-down American is likely lacking sleep, a proper diet, and regular physical activity, which is what is contributing to their fatigue,” she explains. “If sleep is adequate and you are following recommendations for a healthy diet and exercise and still experiencing fatigue, there could be other causes that would warrant a visit to your health care provider.”
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