How ‘Natural’ Vitamins May Harm Your Body

There is a misconception that ‘natural’ is safe, leading many to believe that as long as they use plant or fruit based ingredients, they will be reaping all the benefits with nary a side effect.

This erroneous thinking can have devastating consequences when taken to its extremes. A woman in China almost died after injecting herself with liquidised fruit in a bid to be healthy. The 51-year-old suffered liver, kidney, heart and lung damage and was put into intensive care for five days. Her thinking was perhaps that since fruit can be eaten for its vitamin content, why not inject it into the veins for a greater effect?

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Some things are meant for oral consumption and others for topical application. Something nutritious when eaten may not work as well when applied to the skin, and may have disastrous consequences when injected!

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Similar misconceptions and a yearning for fairer skin that has led to a spate of accidents, even fatalities associated with ‘whitening injections’ or ‘vitamin c injections’ in Asia over the past few years. Fair skin has always been coveted in Asian countries, especially since we Asians are generally more prone to melasma and other pigmentary concerns. The search for fairer skin has resulted in an explosion of skin whitening creams on the cosmetic market. Some women in their bid to achieve their desired complexion faster may resort to ‘short cuts’ by going for unapproved ‘whitening injections’. Many of these whitening injections tout a variety of ‘natural’ ingredients such as vitamin c, glutathione and antioxidants. These injections have been banned by Ministry of Health in both Singapore and Malaysia as they use unapproved ingredients of dubious value, and whose safety cannot be confirmed. Even so, many women are foolhardy enough to inject these substances into their veins administered by a direct injection or an iv drip. Many is of the belief that if these ingredients are vitamins, they must be safe, right? No.

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Common ingredients used in whitening injections or vitamin injections are antioxidants such as vitamin c and glutathione. There are many risks involved in such procedures. Firstly, if the procedure is carried out with unsterile equipment, it can lead to transmission of diseases and even septicaemia (blood poisoning). Any drug injected into your body can give you the risk of developing a reaction to it such as Epidermal Necrolysis and Steven Johnson Syndrome. Any drugs (even vitamins) given to the body in such high doses may overload your kidneys which have to work even harder to cope with such a high vitamin load. This may lead to renal impairment. Finally, in some places purported to administer such vitamin or whitening drips to patients may not be trained to monitor the patients. For instance, if someone has heart failure, administration of IV fluids may worsen the congestive symptoms. The list of potential side effects go on.

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It’s common for patients to be frustrated when I tell them that they will need several sessions of laser treatments or peels to lighten stubborn pigmentation. They may even theatrically sigh when I remind them to be judicious in the topical application of skincare including sunscreen. However, there are good reasons why some things take time. Remember; good things come to those who wait.

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Listen more: Listen to Dr Low Chai Ling on her podcast



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