The likes of Katy Perry, Rita Ora and Gwyneth Paltrow have voiced their approval of the benefits of intravenous vitamin therapy, whereby nutrition is injected directly into the vein, thereby bypassing the gut and so shortening the time it takes to metabolise.
The stars are said to be paying some US$600 and above for the controversial treatment at clinics in Beverly Hills and Harley Street in London for the convenience of knowing the treatments will take quick effect.
Roland Victor, a physician and founder of Sky Clinic, a lifestyle and wellness clinic in Kuala Lumpur, administers IV vitamins to well-heeled Malaysians.
According to Victor, its main benefit is the speed with which it acts, compared to oral nutrition. It is particularly popular among regular long-haul business travellers who cannot afford the time it takes to acclimatise to a time zone on the other side of the world.
He says it also works for hangover sufferers, giving them relief in hours, while those with medical conditions, such as migraine, asthma and chronic fatigue may also benefit.
“Some of the drips are custom made for patients, such as for those with addiction withdrawal symptoms. A higher dose of magnesium, for example, will actually help with patients to come off their addiction.
“This goes on a case-to-case basis and every country has different guidelines of drip availability. In the US they have zinc as an extra mineral to be introduced into the drip, or a higher dose of vitamin C; unfortunately, in Malaysia we have a limited range that is allowed.”
Another group for whom vitamin drips have become popular are sportspeople. For instance, a marathon runner might preconditions the body ahead of an event with a drip to stave off cramps later on.
Common formulations feature quantities of water-soluble vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1, B5, B6, B9 and B12, and sodium, magnesium and calcium.
“These B complexes, when taken intravenously, are delivered straight away to the cells. For those with hangovers, the B complex helps to metabolise alcohol faster through the system,” he added.
IV therapy itself is not new, and has been used in the medical profession for decades. In hospitals, it is commonly used to hydrate patients and administer essential nutrients if there is an issue with gut absorption, or long-term difficulty eating or drinking due to surgery.
Single nutrient deficiencies like vitamin B12 or iron are also often treated in hospital with infusions under medical supervision.
But the "cocktails" IV vitamin therapy clinics create and administer are supported by scant scientific evidence. There have been no clinical studies to show vitamin injections of this type offer any health benefit or are necessary for good health.
Indeed, there is just one review, on the use of the Myers’ cocktail, named after the Baltimore Johns Hopkins Hospital physician and IV therapy pioneer John Myers, containing magnesium, calcium, various B vitamins and vitamin C. It is claimed to be beneficial beneficial for a broad range of conditions, though the review contains little more than anecdotal evidence from singular case studies.
Alan Gadby, the doctor who refined the formula, claims it can relieve acute asthma attacks and migraines in most cases within two minutes.
Compared to the prices paid by the US jet set for IV therapy, Malaysian clinics will likely charge around a quarter, depending on the concentration of the dose.