Intravenous Nutrients? Let’s Chew on That

By David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center Director, Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital

Posted on | By David L. Katz MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP

Proponents of intravenous nutrients can at times make them sound like the best thing since sliced bread. Or, for the low-carb devotees among you, the best thing since turkey bacon. Claims are made that intravenous nutrients in various combinations can act as a veritable fountain of youth, a tonic for low energy and, perhaps, an effective remedy for whatever ails you.

But of course if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And IV nutrients as a magic formula fits that bill.

To start the process of putting intravenous nutrients in proper context, let’s recall that by definition, a nutrient is something found in food, and a food is something we eat. This has many important implications. Nutrients in foods are, generally, ingested in the company of other nutrients and often act in concert with them. They are digested and enter our blood stream slowly. They are routed through the liver in what is called “the first pass effect” before being set loose on the body as a whole.

The fact that we are here – and surviving despite a diet that has gone from the simple, raw foods of the early Stone Age to the donuts and diet sodas of the modern age – is testimony to how robust this system is. It is the product of millions of years of evolutionary biology and is extraordinarily fine-tuned.

Putting nutrients directly into the bloodstream bypasses all of this native engineering, and in so doing, invites an array of potential dangers. Digestion regulates the speed at which nutrients enter the blood – IV dosing eliminates that safeguard. IV’s always carry some, albeit small, risk of bruising, clotting, bleeding and infection, which eating, obviously, does not.

Article written by David L. Katz MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP
Director, Yale University Prevention Research CenterDirector, Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital