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Research shows mixed results about whether vitamin treatments are beneficial for sepsis patients

First of all, what is sepsis?

Sepsis is a serious medical condition that occurs when the body's response to an infection causes inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to organ failure and death if not treated promptly and appropriately. Sepsis is caused by an infection, most commonly in the lungs, urinary tract, skin, or gut. It can also occur as a complication of another illness or injury.

What is the role of vitamin therapy?

Many people have wondered whether vitamin IV therapy is effective. A recent review of scientific research on the role of vitamin therapy in treating sepsis patients (Wald et al. 2022) revealed some reason for optimism but also a need for further testing:

The biological plausibility and the supporting clinical evidence for some of the major vitamins, such as vitamin C, thiamine, and vitamin D, make a compelling case for their use in sepsis, but thus far, vitamin supplementation has had mixed results in large, multicenter RCTs and in observational studies. Other vitamins, such as vitamin A, B2, B6, and E, warrant further study in sepsis. In addition, a significant limitation is that most of the current evidence originates from adult studies and data in children is less robust.

According to the research team that did the review of the evidence,

  • Vitamin C. Most clinical trials of high-dose IV vitamin C by itself in critically ill adults with sepsis have shown benefits.

  • Thiamine. Sepsis patients tend to have severe thiamine deficiencies, so administration of thiamine is essential.

  • Vitamin D. Unclear if it helps.

  • Other vitamins. Unclear if vitamin A, B2 or B6 help.

  • Vitamin E is a maybe.

A sanity check

Vitamin therapy doesn't have to cure sepsis in order to be useful. The role of vitamin IV therapy is to hydrate people and provide essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. The concept of vitamins is that if you improve your overall health, you will be less likely to end up in the hospital with sepsis or another life-threatening condition. Vitamin therapy is really used more as a preventive measure, and to improve quality of life. Despite outrageous claims, it's not logical to think that taking some vitamins will cure your cancer, heart disease, etc. The best we can hope for is that it will improve our overall health condition which will in turn help us avoid getting those kinds of degenerative diseases. So, no, it is not necessary for vitamin therapy to stop sepsis in order to be effective.


Further research is needed to show the effectiveness of vitamin therapy in staving off sepsis and other illnesses. Studies like Wald et al. (2012) are valuable because they aggregate a related set of scientific studies together to see how consistent a given set of results are. In order for scientists to accept a finding it must be replicable. If one researcher got it to work one time but nobody else saw the effect though they followed the protocol as closely as possible that is a bad sign.

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