Reality Check: Do vitamin IV drips really work?

Vitamin IV therapy is touted as being able to do everything from cure a hangover to help you lose weight. But is it worth the hefty price tag?

While vitamin IV therapy has been used in a medical environment to treat issues such as iron deficiency, in recent years the procedure has become more widely used by people wanting to fast track their way to optimal health with a quick nutrient injection.

Vitamin IV drip lounges offer infusions that are said to do everything from boost immunity to increase energy and aid in weight loss.

As part of our Reality Check series, we look at the ins and outs of vitamin IV therapy.

How does vitamin IV therapy work?

Vitamin IV drips administer a mixture of vitamins and minerals straight into the bloodstream via a needle inserted into a vein.

It is said to be a quick, more efficient way of receiving a nutritional boost as the vitamins don’t have to go through the digestive system but are instead delivered straight into the blood stream.

This is said to allow for better absorption of vitamins into the body compared to taking oral supplements.

IV League drips founder Rosy McEvedy says while the procedure has its benefits, an infusion is not a magical solution that can be used in isolation.

“Vitamin IV drips are definitely more a supplementation, and a complement to someone’s already healthy lifestyle,” she says.

What the experts say about vitamin IV therapy

Dietitian Milly Smith says the average person wouldn’t be nutrient deficient enough to warrant an IV infusion of vitamins.

“Generally, if we’re eating a wide variety of foods from our core food groups, we should be obtaining those vitamins and minerals that we need to function,” Milly says.

“We mostly only see these deficiencies either if someone isn’t absorbing things effectively or if they’re missing out on core food groups.”

While ensuring our body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs for good health is important, dietitian and nutritionist Joyce Haddad says sometimes you can also have too much of a good thing.

“In the case of nutrients bypassing the tightly regulated digestion and absorption system and entering directly into the bloodstream in quite high doses, in some cases, it could potentially cause harm,” she says.

Dr Kieran Kennedy says over a prolonged period of time, excess levels of vitamins can accumulate and build up in the body.

“And if we have health conditions such as liver conditions or kidney issues, then the risk of those vitamins not being excreted when they’ve been over delivered to the body is greater,” he says.

Joyce says there have not yet been sufficient clinical studies to show that vitamin IV drips offer any health benefit over and above supplementation for healthy individuals.

While Dr Kennedy acknowledges some people may feel a difference after undergoing vitamin IV therapy, he says it’s important to remember the procedure itself does involve minor risks such as infection or bleeding.

“When we’re talking about some of the things that are promised with these IV drips, is the risk, however small, worth getting it done when some of the things that have been promised may not actually be medically backed up?” he says.

So, is it worth it?

Vitamin IV infusions can cost into hundreds of dollars.

While some people may report improvements to their health, it’s important to weigh up the prospective benefits along with any potential risks.

It is also vital to see a doctor or health professional if you feel you are nutritionally deficient.

In the end, you may be better off investing in a nutritious diet instead.

Written by Tania Gomez