What’s the deal with IV Vitamin infusions?
I’ve written here before about vitamin supplements. The bottom line is that many people don’t need to take supplemental vitamins. Except in people who have a diagnosed vitamin deficiency, most people can obtain all the vitamins they need from a balanced diet.
Full stop right there, because a recent study showed that while 75% of Americans think they eat a balanced diet, the truth is that 80% actually don’t. Ouchie.
My personal view is that many “wellness trends” are marketed to vaguely treat subjective issues – take “fatigue,” for example – that could be better tackled if people followed good, basic lifestyle habits. Start with 7-8 hours of sleep, generous daily water intake, daily exercise and a good diet full of unprocessed foods, fruits and veggies.
But we Americans aren’t great at the basics, so we want a quick way to drink our cures. Or, in the case of IV infusions, we want to drip it.
Intravenous (or IV) infusions, and specifically, IV vitamin infusions, make the claim to do just that.
Rihanna, Katy Perry and Gwyneth are all doing it. So, must be good for you, right?
Recently, a well-known business leader I follow said he gets a bi-weekly infusion of 50 grams of Vitamin C. (That’s 800 times as much Vitamin C as the recommended daily allowance! An actual orange tree might not have that much in it.) These infusions are offered in plush spa-like conditions with supple leather seating and soothing sounds. It’s hard to imagine how pumping a few grams of some Vitamin A, B, C, or Z could be bad for you. “Listen, guy – you want MORE vitamins or LESS vitamins.” It’s vitamin math.
Well, the truth is, there’s no evidence out there that these infusions do anything. In fact, most of the research suggests that your body rapidly excretes the majority of these vitamins into your urine. So, essentially what you are paying for is very expensive, vitamin-rich urine. You’re quite literally flushing money down the toilet.
Infusion marketers claim that they lower stress, increase energy, reverse aging, and give a boost to the brain. But there’s no scientific evidence that these treatments do any of that. Here in Austin, Texas, one local IV Vitamin shop advertises a Premium IV cocktail of “zinc, vitamin C, magnesium chloride, carnitine, arginine, MSM, B complex, B6, B12, B5, Glutathione, and phosphatidylcholine” all for just $240.
Here is what the actual scientific evidence says about these vitamins and your need for them:
- Zinc, Vitamin C, Magnesium, B vitamins: These are all things that you do not need in IV form, and probably don’t need in any form if you don’t have a diagnosed deficiency. Zinc has been shown to help diarrhea in children in developing countries (who don’t get zinc in their diet). And Vitamin C infusion may help people with septic shock (life-threatening blood infection). If these don’t apply to you, then you probably don’t need them.
- Carnitine, arginine, glutathione: These are amino acids (or derivatives of them) that sound fancy, but there is no evidence they help you at all. Glutathione is made from glutamine which is abundant in your diet, and it has never been shown that giving a person more results in any benefit.
- MSM (along with shark cartilage and ginger extracts) has been theorized to help people with some conditions like arthritis. Notice I said “theorized”. This has never been proven scientifically. Over time, though, it could explain the origin story of “Shark Man.”
The bottom line is that these infusions sound like they are packed with amazing, scientifically proven ingredients that will catapult you into the best version of yourself. But any factual evidence backing up these claims is sorely lacking.
The bigger concern is that this might even be bad for you.
Certain vitamins are stored in the body. Vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Repeated doses of these can lead to accumulation and very harmful effects.
For a long time, patients have assumed that anything “in a shot” is more instant, and better. Case in point is the anti-inflammatory steroids that are commonly given for asthma, poison ivy, and myriad other conditions. The research bears out that oral ingested prednisone (and other steroids) have the same time to efficacy and the same end result as treating with an injection. Yet, practical experience in a clinic shows us time and time again how often people say, “Can you just give me the cortisone shot?” And it’s not just an American thing.
When I lived and worked in sub-Saharan Africa years ago, I talked to doctors who would give their patients B-12 shots for benign viral conditions and even back and neck pain. Sure, the B-12 shot did nothing. But the placebo effect of getting that shot was amazing, and many of their patients requested it. They wanted “the shot”.
What do we recommend at Remedy? Eat a balanced diet, exercise several times per week, stop smoking and limit alcohol. These “interventions” alone will do way more for you than any vitamin infusion ever will.