Cham­pi­oned by A-lis­ters, vi­ta­min in­jec­tions are all the rage with ‘drop and drip’ bars spring­ing up glob­ally. Now they’re avail­able here but are they safe? Carly Hobbs in­ves­ti­gates...

Friday - - HEALTH -

Madonna is a fan. So are Brad Pitt, Si­mon Cow­ell and Cara Delev­ingne. Pop star Ri­hanna even tweeted a pic­ture of her­self get­ting a blast of en­ergy and nu­tri­ents through an IV.

Celebri­ties and those in the know don’t have time for spas, weeks of detox­ing or hol­i­days to re­ju­ve­nate. In­stead they’re hook­ing up to a vi­ta­min drip for an in­stant boost of the es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins straight into their blood stream.

For stars like Cow­ell it’s as nor­mal as us grab­bing a caf­feine boost on the way to work. “Even when I’m hav­ing a view­ing ses­sion with pro­duc­ers, [a nurse] just sticks the nee­dle in me and we carry on what­ever we are do­ing,” Cow­ell told the US edi­tion of GQ.

With the process tak­ing be­tween 15 and 30 min­utes, no won­der dozens of Drip and Chill bars are pop­ping up all over show­biz spots like Mi­ami, LA, Lon­don and now the UAE.

Kim Pear­son, a qual­i­fied clin­i­cal nu­tri­tion­ist, is aware of the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the vi­ta­min drips. “Fans claim to feel an in­crease in their en­ergy lev­els as well as con­cen­tra­tion and ex­er­cise per­for­mance,” she says.

“If they aren’t eat­ing op­ti­mally, get­ting enough sleep and gen­er­ally tak­ing care of them­selves, it can be seen as a quick fix to make them feel bet­ter. While there are no set sta­tis­tics on us­age of this ex­treme health and beauty ‘treat­ment’ these shots should come with a health warn­ing. Vi­ta­min drips have been in­creas­ingly mar­keted in re­cent years for healthy in­di­vid­u­als with no known nutrient de­fi­cien­cies or health con­di­tions. In these cases they can be un­nec­es­sary and even dan­ger­ous if not done cor­rectly.”

Like any­thing in­jectable, too much or too lit­tle could be given, and noone knows who will suf­fer po­ten­tially fa­tal side ef­fects like car­diac ar­rest un­til it could be too late.

But Dr Samee Ma­jid Matto from the Cana­dian Specialist Hospi­tal in Dubai, cur­rently the only place to of­fer vi­ta­min drips in the UAE, in­sists they are a safe way of boost­ing gen­eral health – specif­i­cally when pa­tients are lack­ing cer­tain vi­ta­mins. “We en­counter many pa­tients who come to our clin­ics ask­ing for vi­ta­min in­jec­tions,” he says. “The most com­mon ones that we ad­min­is­ter are vi­ta­min B12 and vi­ta­min D.”

Here in Dubai you have a con­sul­ta­tion with a doc­tor and tests to check for de­fi­cien­cies, while else­where in the world there is a menu of treat­ments, with vi­ta­mins on of­fer listed like mas­sages and fa­cials. So it’s in­evitable that more clin­ics and hos­pi­tals here will soon of­fer the ser­vice.

“We don’t cur­rently of­fer treat­ments like the Drip and Chill bars but are aware of the grow­ing trend and de­mand for them,” says Dr Roberto Viel, plas­tic sur­geon of 15 Har­ley Street, Dubai Health­care City. “This is still very new in the UAE and we’re look­ing to have it on of­fer in our clinic. We’re re­search­ing the pro­to­cols and the safety as­pect of the treat­ment be­fore we con­sider this ser­vice. Based in Dubai Health­care City, we need to work with the au­thor­i­ties to en­sure that this treat­ment can be of­fered with their ap­proval only.”

So tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion a typ­i­cal Dubai work hard/play hard life­style does Kim think vi­ta­min drips are a good en­ergy or health booster?

“That de­pends on the in­di­vid­ual,” she says. “Some people re­quire IV vi­ta­mins for med­i­cal rea­sons – for ex­am­ple, B12 in­jec­tions are usu­ally ad­min­is­tered by doc­tors in high doses to com­bat per­ni­cious anaemia, a con­di­tion when vi­ta­min B12 can­not

be ab­sorbed into your body. In this case they are nec­es­sary.

“But many clin­ics will of­fer a cock­tail of vi­ta­min in­fu­sions, com­pris­ing a num­ber of dif­fer­ent vi­ta­min and min­eral com­bi­na­tions – they may pro­mote im­mune-boost­ing drips con­tain­ing nu­tri­ents such as vi­ta­min C, zinc and se­le­nium, or en­ergy boost­ing drips con­tain­ing nu­tri­ents such as B vi­ta­mins.”

B12 and Vi­ta­min D are in high de­mand in the UAE. Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies, and de­spite the se­ri­ously sunny cli­mate, 78 per cent of the UAE pop­u­la­tion, both lo­cals and ex­pats, have a vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency. This is most likely due to limited sun ex­po­sure. Many of us rush from our cars to the shops or of­fices in the sear­ing sum­mer heat, and have on­go­ing con­cerns about get­ting burnt in tem­per­a­tures reach­ing the high 40s, so there’s a ten­dency to stay out of the rays. But not get­ting enough sun­shine is a health risk. Vi­ta­min D, which is sourced nat­u­rally from the sun, is a fat-sol­u­ble vi­ta­min re­spon­si­ble for help­ing to keep bones strong, boost­ing the im­mune sys­tem and keep­ing blood pres­sure in check. Not enough of it can lead to brit­tle bones, gen­eral weak­ness and chronic colds, all of which lead to limited en­ergy sup­plies.

B12 is also re­quired for proper brain and body func­tion. The Cana­dian Specialist Hospi­tal deals with B12 is­sues, of­fer­ing these in­jec­tions for as lit­tle as Dh6.

“This de­fi­ciency is more com­mon in vege­tar­i­ans or those hav­ing prob­lems with food ab­sorp­tion/ stomach prob­lems,” ex­plains Dr Sarla Ku­mari, specialist In­ter­nal Medicine at the clinic. “Vi­ta­min B12 can be given via a mus­cle or vein. Be­fore ad­min­is­ter­ing the in­jec­tions, the doc­tor will give you a test dose to make sure there’s no al­ler­gic re­ac­tion. If there’s no prob­lems they’ll give you the full dose.”

How­ever, even af­ter proper ad­min­is­tra­tion, there could still be is­sues. “You may get pain or red­ness at the site of in­jec­tion, mild di­ar­rhoea, itch­ing or a feel­ing of mild swelling all over the body,” warns Dr Ku­mari. “But these side ef­fects are rare.”

The in­jec­tions aren’t a one-off. “They are usu­ally given ei­ther once a week or once a month, depend­ing

‘Many clin­ics will of­fer a cock­tail of vi­ta­min in­fu­sions, com­pris­ing dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions’

upon the lev­els and un­der­ly­ing con­di­tion of pa­tient,” she adds.

“And there’s fol­low–up mon­i­tor­ing of vi­ta­min B12 lev­els. How many months this is re­quired de­pends on your con­di­tion and lev­els; your doc­tor will check your lev­els to make sure the de­fi­ciency has been cor­rected.”

You’ll pay the ex­pected Dh150 per vi­ta­min D treat­ment and it takes 5 to 10 min­utes to ad­min­is­ter. It is very much a med­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and not the quick and easy life­style choice, as de­picted by Ri­hanna’s Twit­pic.

In Dubai, the treat­ment is car­ried out un­der strict med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion. Else­where, how­ever, vi­ta­min in­jec­tions are of­fered with the non­cha­lance of or­der­ing your lunchtime salad. In Las Ve­gas vans pull up in ho­tel car parks of­fer­ing a drop-in drip ser­vice and can run as many as 14 IVs at a time to 14 pa­tients at $225 (Dh826) dol­lars a pop.

Ex­perts like Kim Pear­son think there could be a risk of hav­ing too many in­jec­tions just be­cause they’re so read­ily avail­able in the US and UK.

“There is the po­ten­tial to reach toxic lev­els of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als,” she says. “This high­lights the need for vi­ta­min drips to be car­ried out by a qual­i­fied and re­spon­si­ble med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner.”

Dr Matto echoes this warn­ing, say­ing the so­lu­tion en­ters the blood­stream so quickly the wrong

dosage can be very dan­ger­ous. “Like all other medicines, vi­ta­mins can cause ad­verse ef­fects, so should be used only when in­di­cated and ad­vised by a doc­tor,” he says. “They should never be used for aes­thetic pur­poses.”

Kim is quick to point out that un­less you have a spe­cific med­i­cal prob­lem such as per­ni­cious anaemia, steer clear. “Reg­u­larly tak­ing a good-qual­ity oral vi­ta­min and min­eral sup­ple­ment may pro­vide the same ben­e­fits,” she says. “Plus they can be dan­ger­ous if not car­ried out cor­rectly; there is a chance of con­tract­ing sep­ti­caemia.”

There’s those po­ten­tial side-ef­fects again. And even if they’re not lifethreat­en­ing, in­jec­tions al­ways carry some risk. There can be ir­ri­ta­tion where the drip is in­serted; and bruis­ing and vein dam­age can be ex­pected. But like any in­tra­venous pro­ce­dure, there’s a risk of in­fec­tion and reg­u­lar use could lead to vein dam­age. In­cor­rect dos­ing could harm the kid­neys and liver if they are un­able to ef­fi­ciently di­lute the ex­cess min­er­als, leading to high chlo­ride and sodium lev­els, which can cause dizzi­ness, weak­ness and swelling. Very high sodium lev­els can even cause seizures and coma. In rare cases, the drips could trig­ger a po­ten­tially fa­tal al­ler­gic re­ac­tion and cause car­diac ar­rest.

With this in mind, some doc­tors even claim they have lit­tle or no ben­e­fit, say­ing placebo tests have had the same ‘re­sults’ in not-so-needy pa­tients. The re­sults are still in­con­clu­sive and in some camps ques­tion­able. So are they a waste of money? “Prob­a­bly,” adds Kim.

“While many people could ben­e­fit from a higher in­take of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, they would do bet­ter im­prov­ing their diet by in­creas­ing their veg­etable in­take.”

But what do these drips feel like and are they worth it? Kate Wills, 29, a writer, tried them as a one off at a Lon­don spa af­ter a hec­tic sum­mer of par­ty­ing. She opted for a mix of vi­ta­min B, C, mag­ne­sium and se­le­nium, to give her en­ergy with the dosage cal­cu­lated based on her weight and height. “The drip was cold as it went in through a vein in my arm,” says Kate. “And af­ter­wards I felt a bit light­headed and empty, so I was given tea and bis­cuits, which also helped with the metal­lic af­ter­taste in my mouth.

“At first I didn’t feel any dif­fer­ent, but later I think that my vi­sion was brighter and I was def­i­nitely feel­ing less tired. The next day I felt a bit wob­bly, but like I’d had a good night’s sleep!”

‘The drip was cold as it went in through a vein in my arm and af­ter­wards I felt a bit light­headed’

Brad Pitt and Cara Delev­ingne, right, are fans of the treat­ment

Ri­hanna and Si­mon get their vi­ta­min fix via a nee­dle

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