Miss SA finalists given celebrity tonic branded ineffective, risky
Doctors say intravenous vitamin therapy has no real benefits
Bikini bod. Check. Sparkling smile. Check. Designer gown. Check. Contentious intravenous vitamin therapy. Check.
That's the beauty regimen that Miss South Africa finalists have undergone ahead of the finals, to be held in Pretoria next Sunday.
But the intravenous vitamin therapy - popularised by Rihanna, Madonna and Simon Cowell - has been criticised by beauty experts.
The cocktail of vitamins, which was administered to some finalists at the Lightsculpt Aesthetic Clinic in Johannesburg recently, has been slammed by both the South African Association of Cosmetic Doctors and the Aesthetic and Anti-Aging Medicine Society of South Africa.
It is claimed that the therapy boosts energy and aids in weight loss, among other benefits.
Dr Anushka Reddy, the head of the cosmetic doctors' body, believes contestants are being used as "pawns to promote something with no known scientific benefits".
One of the finalists, medical student Karishma Ramdev, 23, posted her experience on social media: "I got an energy IV Push (which I desperately need)."
Ramdev told the Sunday Times that the treatment "is a wonderful and efficient way" to take in vitamins and minerals. "It not only energises but detoxifies the system. When I had it done, I felt so full of energy, even though we were so busy all the time."
The clinic, an official pageant sponsor, also waxed lyrical on its Instagram account about the vitamin therapy, posting a picture of another contestant, model Anzelle von Staden, receiving a shot.
"Ever wondered what helps Miss SA finalists like Anzelle von Staden stay ahead of their busy schedules? PureEnergy IV infusions at Lightsculpt! Our IVs contain a combination of vitamins and powerful antioxidants to get you feeling energized and ready to take on the day!" the post reads.But Reddy said there had been no clinical studies to show the vitamin therapy offered any health benefit. "To date there is no robust evidence from human clinical trials showing any positive health effects. The only published trial on their use - in fibromyalgia - showed no benefit."
Her concern was that "young, healthy women - who are ambassadors - should not be advocating the use of intravenous vitamin therapy.
"If they have a healthy diet, there is absolutely no indication for IV vitamin use. In healthy individuals, the digestion and absorption of food is regulated to release nutrients into the bloodstream from the gut and liver.
"If nutrients bypass this natural process and are injected directly into the bloodstream in high doses, it could potentially cause harm," said Reddy.
"It is possible to have too much of a good thing. At present, there are no regulatory processes governing safety in such clinics."
Dr Cobus van Niekerk, head of the aesthetic and anti-aging medicine society, also doesn't support the practice "due to lack of studies".
He said: "Doctors may also find themselves not covered by their medical indemnity insurance if anything goes wrong."
In a joint statement to the Sunday Times, Miss South Africa organisers and Lightsculpt defended the therapy, saying it was a "global phenomenon using natural ingredients including vitamins C, B complex, magnesium, zinc. No performance-enhancing substances are used in any of the IV treatments. Consumers, celebrities and public figures alike are seeing the benefits."
Patients had consulted a doctor prior to "any intravenous treatment commencing".