Here's Why You Don't Need IV Vitamin Therapy

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Fact checked by Nick Blackmer

Key Takeaways

  • Celebrities have popularized the use of IV vitamin therapy for a wide range of health benefits, but experts say there's minimal evidence to support its effectiveness and safety.

  • These IV vitamin therapies are not regulated or approved by the FDA.

  • You can get enough nutrients through a balanced diet rather than relying on unapproved and scientifically dubious IV therapies, experts say.

Luxury vacations now often feature not just five-star amenities and breathtaking views but also intravenous vitamin treatments. Celebrities have popularized IV vitamin drips in the past few years, touting their benefits for everything from hangover cures to anti-aging.

However, many health experts are skeptical of these claims.

“There’s really very, very limited evidence supporting their use for any medical condition,” Kelly Krisna Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, told Verywell.

IV therapy can deliver high doses of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, B12, magnesium, and calcium, directly into the bloodstream. However, these therapies are not FDA-approved.

We can easily get the amount of vitamins we need from food without needing any IV drips, according to Theresa Gentile, MS, RDN, CDN, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist.

“Most of what these people are getting from the infusions, we can get in a balanced diet,” Gentile told Verywell.

Related: What Is IV Therapy?

Do IV Vitamin Drips Offer Real Benefits?

There’s not enough evidence to support claims that IV drips can cure jet lag, detox, or boost the immune system. Some IV therapy companies have even marketed their products as treatments for chronic diseases, such as cancer and congestive heart failure. This has prompted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to challenge these unsupported health claims.

“There is very little efficacy and safety studies in these things at all, unfortunately, and that’s a big concern because they are making these dramatic health claims, which are really unfounded,” Gentile said.

The high doses of vitamins and minerals delivered through IV drips may not be entirely harmless. While excess amounts of water-soluble vitamins—such as vitamin C—are expelled in urine, overloading fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K could lead to a toxic overdose.

“We don’t necessarily know that having high doses of vitamins is better for you. Just because vitamin deficiencies are associated with bad outcomes in people, it doesn’t necessarily equate with vitamin excess being beneficial,” Johnson-Arbor said.

Related: Symptoms of Too Much Vitamin D and Supplement Side Effects

How Risky Are IV Vitamin Drips?

In 2021, a 50-year-old woman was hospitalized for septic shock with multi-organ failure after receiving an IV vitamin drip in her home. The FDA then warned that some IV hydration clinics and med spas prepare products in unsanitary conditions with dirty equipment. The agency also said the quality of the compounded drugs in the IV bag cannot be assured.

“There are a lot of safe and reputable med spas that perform these treatments, but the handful of med spas that cut corners and put patients at risk have put a bit of a dark cloud over the industry,” Richina Bicette-McCain, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told Verywell in an email.

The biggest risk often occurs during the IV insertion process, which can cause pain, excessive bleeding, skin infections, inflammation, or clotting, according to Bicette-McCain.

The infusion itself also carries some risks. People may have an allergic reaction to the contents of the drip, or the infusion could have adverse interactions with another medication they’re taking.

“Most IV drips are essentially expensive water with a few vitamins mixed in, and those fluids are relatively safe. However, there have been cases of negative outcomes and deaths, where patients were given IV infusions that contain prescription-only electrolyte mixtures, which should never be given in a med spa setting,” Bicette-McCain said.

Anyone who decides to try IV drip therapies, whether at a med spa or wellness retreat, should confirm that a licensed medical provider is on site.

“Ask them what their protocols are if there is a medical complication or emergency that arises during treatment: Who is there and readily available to provide care?” Bicette-McCain said. “Make sure that your med spa performs some kind of intake history and brief physical exam to ensure that it is safe for you to receive the treatment you’re paying for.”

What This Means For You

IV vitamin therapy has not been proven to offer significant health benefits. The FDA has warned that some IV hydration clinics and med spas prepare compounded drugs for the infusion in unsanitary conditions, which could lead to dangerous infections.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.