Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
Vitamin “bars,” where people get intravenous doses of vitamin and mineral solutions, seem to be trending. They promote themselves as providing a wide range of benefits, from boosting immunity to helping recovery from strenuous exercise. Is this medical fact or marketing hype?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any vitamin infusions, and there’s little scientific evidence to back up marketers’ myriad claims of efficacy for these supposed elixirs. The treatments can also present risks for consumers.
Our bodies need trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, and in most cases, we get all we need from a balanced diet. (A half-cup each of broccoli and strawberries, for example, offers the daily recommended amount of vitamin C for adults.) A daily multivitamin supplement can fill in most shortfalls.
It appears many vitamin bars offer infusions with high doses of vitamin C, purporting to prevent illness. Although vitamin C has gained a popular reputation for warding off colds and other infections, studies have shown it has no such effect. And even if it did, excess doses would not help; once you take in the maximum amount your body can absorb in a day, any surplus leaves in your urine.
It’s possible that a person could feel better immediately following an infusion. This may be the placebo effect. This could also occur if the person had been dehydrated, in which case electrolyte drinks would be just as effective.
Because the IV vitamin therapy industry lacks FDA oversight, the precise ingredients of infusions are a dice roll. Similarly, the facilities fall outside the purview of bodies that monitor healthcare. Last year, a Californian nearly died from septic shock that doctors attributed to a tainted IV vitamin infusion.
Bottom line: Most people will see no benefit from these treatments, and they can come with risk. If you suspect a vitamin or mineral deficiency, talk to your doctor. A blood test will offer a complete picture, and if necessary, they’ll recommend appropriate supplements.
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!