Hype-free health: vitamin drips

Every month, we bring you the definitive facts around the latest health trends - this time it's the turn of IV vitamin therapy


are IV vitamins a good idea or not?

The hype

The supplement market is worth £385m. Yet, government figures show we lack vitamin D, iron and magnesium. These statistics, along with studies by the University of Oxford that question supplement efficacy, have led to the rise of vitamin infusions. While some will be familiar with celebrities posting vitamin-drip selfies after a night out, others are seeking longer-term measures away from hangover cures, but what’s the scientific merit of these treatments?

‘This is the only way of infusing the body with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids in bespoke combinations,’ says Esther Fieldgrass, founder of EF Medispa. Her clinic, along with others, prescribes infusions to help with stress, tiredness, adrenal gland insufficiency, histamine intolerances, and even libido.

Does this pave the way to nutritional wealth, or is it a drastic, potentially dangerous approach to wellness?

The facts

  1. IV vitamin therapy was first used over 40 years ago to nourish the immune systems of cancer patients, as vitamins are absorbed straight into the blood stream and sent where most needed. 
  2. While it is accepted such drips benefit those with severe nutritional deficiencies and conditions that hinder nutrient absorption, some medical professionals say they shouldn’t be used routinely as a quick fix. ‘There’s no robust evidence from trials showing any positive health effects of IV vitamin therapy, so the short- or long-term impact on health is unknown,’ explains Ayela Spiro, senior nutrition scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation.
  3. The body is efficient enough to alter the absorption rate depending on its needs, ‘whether vitamins are taken orally or intravenously,’ Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Health Supplements Information Service explains.

The verdict

  • Injecting anything into the bloodstream comes with risks, however, to date, no problems have surfaced. Nevertheless, an IV vitamin drip is still a medical procedure that needs to be administered by a medical professional.
  • Unlike supplements, where standardised doses lean towards a one-size-fits-all approach, IV vitamins drips are tailored to your individual wellbeing needs.
  • Deficiency statistics mean that it’s very easy to jump to the conclusion that if a little is good, then more must be better – and yet this is troublesome logic. It’s well-established that vitamins can be harmful in excess, especially fat-soluble vitamins that are stored rather than excreted by the body.
  • Ultimately, the first place we should look at in order to achieve wellness is our diet and lifestyle choices. Prevention is always better than cure and no amount of nutritional shots, whether taken orally or infused via a vein, will wipe the slate clean.

Photograph: Adam Voorhes/Gallery Stock