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Celebrities help the £500 vitamin jab go mainstream

Madonna does it. Rihanna’s done it. Katy Perry, Rita Ora and Gwyneth Paltrow have been known to dabble and while there are no clinical studies to prove the benefits of intravenous vitamin therapy, the celebrity wellness trend appears to have gone fully mass market.

In a gleaming west London clinic, with plump leather recliners and a TV tuned to Netflix, Yassine Bendiabdallah explains the benefits of his IV treatments. Customers, mostly wealthy and mostly women, visit him for courses of injections promising an array of anti-ageing, anti-stress, brain-boosting, energy-restoring properties. His most popular is the NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which costs £500 and can take up to three hours to administer. “It causes an uncomfortable tightening in your head and chest,” he explains, “but that’s normal”.

Vitamin clinics, where IV drips are provided for customers looking for hangover cures, boosts to their vitamin D, B12 and C levels and more, have been stealthily popping up in British cities, matching the surge of sales in vitamin supplements. According to Mintel, 34% of people in Britain supplement their diet with daily vitamins; sales leapt by 27% for adults in 2018 and the market, which has grown overall by 6% since 2013, is expected to be worth £477m by 2023.

“There is a significant relationship between the growth in vitamin supplements and injections,” said Tim Hart, a nutritionist at Third Space health club. “A lot of my clients spend hundreds on IV therapy because they believe it has an instant effect. But the reality is that a lot of the time it will be flushed out of the body – so they’re mostly paying for quite expensive urine.”

Nutrients are released into the blood from the gut as part of the normal digestive process. But, said Kirsty Bamping, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, “if this is bypassed and nutrients enter directly into the bloodstream in high doses [as with IV therapy], this could potentially cause harm – and the long-term effects are unknown. Vitamins and minerals can be harmful in excess, especially fat-soluble vitamins [such as vitamin A, D, E and K] that are stored rather than excreted.”

She said vitamin drips were a waste of money: “If someone’s nutrient status is inadequate then a starting point should be improving the quality of diet rather than opting for alternative therapies that may be detrimental.”

Fads that proliferate with influencers on Instagram tend to filter through to the mainstream, and it’s here where vitamin drip and supplement selfies have taken hold.

“Most of the supplement market is bogus,” said Paul Clayton, a nutritional scientist and former adviser on the committee on the safety of medicines. “It’s not a good model when you have businesses selling products they don’t understand and cannot be proven to be effective in clinical trials. It has encouraged the development of a lot of products that have no other value than placebo – not to knock placebo, but I want more than hype and hope.”

Clayton, however, works at the high end of the industry and stands by Lyma, pitched as “the world’s first super supplement”; it is sold at £199 for a one-month supply. “It’s not the most rational combination of compounds, they could be more focused, but as a performance-related product, it has an effect on making you look and feel good.”

But he seems perplexed that the product, which is popular with models and actors, might be considered essential. “If I was trying to make a public health initiative, this isn’t where I’d start,” he says. “I’m OK standing behind it because I know the science is good but it’s for people who have money to spend on looking and feeling good. I’m not who it’s designed for.”

What would he recommend to anyone browsing an aisle of vitamins, keen to improve their physical wellbeing? “Stop smoking, take more exercise and eat lots of fruit and veg.”

Source: TheGuardian