Vitamin Patches and Supplements
Daniel Dohman investigates if topical patches and supplements make vitamin intake a whole lot easier.
For your bodily functions to work correctly, your body needs at least 13 vitamins daily, but let us face it, a perfect, nutrient-packed diet is hard to attain. This is what supplements are for. While multivitamins have been around for decades, taking supplements orally is not always the best way to get your daily vitamin intake. This is mostly due to the common gastrointestinal issues and stomach sensitivities as well as the increasing lack of absorption of so many nutrients in the body.
What are vitamin patches?
While the skin is meant to be an impenetrable shield that prevents chemicals and other substances from getting through, it does absorb fat-soluble or lipophilic substances. Based on this fact, transdermal vitamin patches are meant to deliver a small dose of supplements, i.e. vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, in fat-soluble forms through the skin directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the stomach and kidneys entirely.
The vitamin patches rely on the idea that while the majority of nutrients can be consumed orally, most of them can also be absorbed through the skin. This system has been applied in the medical industry for years with the use of nicotine, hormones, and angina patches. Manufacturers claim that when supplements are directly absorbed through the skin, the body can sustain these nutrients for up to 6 hours, which provides a significant advantage as compared to traditional methods, ensuring optimal efficacy.
How do they work?
The skin has three layers, the first and outermost layer is called the epidermis, and it is where the patch is placed. The second layer is the dermis. It is where the connective tissue that gives the skin its elasticity and structure is found and where the nutrients are transmitted to the deepest skin layer, the hypodermis. Once the vitamins get to the hypodermis, they are transmitted directly to the bloodstream. From there, the circulatory system will carry the supplements throughout the body.
Who can benefit from vitamin patches and supplements?
Just like multivitamins, transdermal vitamin patches aren’t right for everyone. However, specific individuals will surely benefit from them. John Scarlett from Patch MD explains that you may have a Vitamin B12 deficiency if you are tired and sluggish all day and have difficulty concentrating. This applies to the working class, as busy people tend to experience trouble committing to a healthy diet. In this case, vitamin B12 patches can provide your body with the extra boost it needs to revitalize. Additionally, suppose you are a vegan or a vegetarian. In that case, you will be at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because the vitamin is only found in animal foods which you will not be consuming if you follow a plant-based diet.
Older adults can also benefit from patches and supplements contacting vitamins B12 and D because the body’s absorption of these vitamins decreases with age. Those who have undergone weight loss surgery, have a poor appetite, or do not get enough nutrients from their diet alone may also benefit from multivitamin supplements.
While it is true that many multivitamins and supplements contain active ingredients that can benefit the body, they can also be harmful in many situations. For instance, combining several supplements or mixing supplements with other medications, both prescription and over the counter, could lead to harmful or even life-threatening consequences. Substituting prescription medicines with supplements or going overboard with your vitamin intake, especially with nutrients such as vitamins A and D as well as iron supplements, can also be very harmful.
Do they work?
Transdermal vitamin patches are said to provide a seemingly noninvasive and natural quick-fix, but such claims are usually not backed up by law. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a dietary supplement is a product that is intended for oral ingestion, meaning that transdermal vitamin patches cannot technically be labelled or marketed as supplements. And unlike other drugs, the FDA is not authorized to test the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplement products before they enter the market. Generally, any transdermal patch product that is marketed solely as a dietary supplement is considered by the FDA to be unapproved, misbranded drugs.
Because the FDA does not regulate supplements, it is essential to note that label fraud is not uncommon; multivitamins and vitamin patches may contain higher or lower levels of some nutrients than the label states. In some cases, the supplement may not even provide all of the nutrients listed on its label, which is why it is essential to purchase your vitamins from a trusted and reputable manufacturer.
Although clinical trials regarding the effectiveness of transdermal vitamin patches and supplements are increasing, particularly in the fields of sleep disorders, brain function, and heart diseases, a lack of transparency within the industry in addition to the independent, unregulated testing and the aggressive, glorifying marketing strategies can indicate that supplements and transdermal vitamin patches could pose health risks for those who require supplemental nutrients.
There is very little clinical evidence to prove the supposed health benefits of supplements and vitamin patches which is why it’s advised that you become very wary of such products, especially those who promise instant results. As a general rule, any supplement, multivitamin, or transdermal patch promoted as a quick-fix is a red flag.
So what’s the verdict? With vitamin patches flooding the market and companies selling high-end cocktails of supplements that promise to help with acne, insomnia, stress, poor focus, weight gain, etc., your crucial takeaway should be to proceed with caution. The evidence for nutrient absorption through the skin is minimal, and many of the health benefits related to transdermal vitamin patches and supplements are unsupported.
In the absence of significant data to prove that vitamin absorption is effective, your best bet is to rely on whole, natural food for the essential nutrients you need. Should you decide to go ahead anyway and give these supplements a try, be sure to consult with your health care provider or a professional nutritionist first, and remember, there’s no magic pill or patch that can substitute a healthy diet.
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About the Author
Daniel Dohman works as a sports coach focusing on introducing different sports to kids, teens, and young adults. Aside from teaching his clients how to play and compete in a specific sport, Daniel also incorporates proper nutrition into his clients’ lifestyle. Daniel believes that regularly playing sports and sticking to a healthy diet is essential to living healthily. During his free time, Daniel contributes content to health and sports websites.