According to an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a worrying trend among professional athletes is to self-medicate with nutrition products delivering vitamins and nutrients via an IV (intravenous) drip in the arm (link). Among other things, these products promise speedier recoveries from dehydration, fatigue and inflammation and are offered by a range of new providers such as “drip bars” or concierge home services. As laid down by the authors, the frequent use of IV infusions has led to a subset of athletes having extraordinarily high values for some nutrients during routine blood tests.
Importantly, however, the benefits of this method remain unproven. The only two studies about the subject have not found any positive effects on athletes’ recovery times. The human body does not need excess vitamins and, furthermore, injecting vitamins does not yield additional advantages over taking them orally. On the contrary, excess nutrients bypassing the natural digestive mechanism can even increase the risk for liver disease. Also, with the use of an IV drip comes an increased risk for infection and blood clots – especially given the unknown origins of the products.
After all, the editorialists point to a “food first” approach of ingesting nutrients. Nevertheless, the trend of IV nutrition demonstrates how elite athletes, just as other members of society, are vulnerable to unsubstantiated product claims propagated by high-profile influencers on social media.
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