Vanadium is an essential trace mineral. Although scientists know very little
about how vanadium functions in humans, they believe that at the very least it
is necessary for bone and tooth formation. One hundred years ago, vanadium was
administered as a cure for various diseases, but it was toxic at the high doses
that were prescribed. Based on animal studies, scientists believe that a lack of
vanadium may result in high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, poor blood
sugar control (e.g., diabetes or hypoglycemia), and cardiovascular and kidney
Some experts believe that most American diets provide from 20 to 60 mcg of
vanadium per day; others believe that the amount is many times that. At any
given time, the body contains 25 to 100 mg of vanadium. It is present in varying
amounts in the soil and in many foods. It can also be inhaled from the air as a
result of burning petroleum or petroleum products. Deficiency states in humans
have not been described, and no RDA has been established. Vanadium is poorly
absorbed by the body once ingested, with as much as 95% eliminated.
Recently, a derivative of vanadium, peroxovanadium, has been used in
experimental animals. It was 50 times more potent than vanadate in normalizing
blood sugar without the toxicity shown by vanadium. Tests in humans have not
While vanadium is found in many foods, the best sources are sunflower,
safflower, corn, and olive oils, as well as buckwheat, parsley, oats, rice,
green beans, carrots, cabbage, pepper, and dill. It is also found in shellfish.
Vanadium supplementation for a healthy person is rarely necessary. Eating any of
the above foods should supply a sufficient quantity.
Vanadium exists in several forms including vanadyl or vanadate. Vanadyl
sulfate is most commonly found in nutritional supplements. There are at least
three other forms of vanadium less biologically
Over-the-counter preparations of vanadium offer 30 to 60 mg in pill
- Diabetes (15 to 100 mg/day). Vanadium improves insulin sensitivity
and glucose tolerance in Type I and Type II diabetes mellitus in experimental
animals; however, supporting data on humans are not available.
- Bones and teeth. Vanadium improves the mineralization of bones and
teeth in experimental animals.
- Bodybuilding (0.5 mg/kg/day). Studies have been unable to determine
definitively any performance-enhancing effects of vanadium.
- High cholesterol. Vanadium seems to have the ability to reduce
cholesterol in experimental animals.
- Heart disease. Rates of heart disease are low in areas of the world
(e.g., South America) where the soil contains high levels of
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
Taking 50 to 100 mcg/day of vanadium is enough to meet or exceed nutritional
requirements, without risking toxicity. Some manufacturers promote high dosages
(15 to 100 mg) of vanadyl sulfate per day, but clinical data do not warrant such
dosages at this time. Because deficiency states have not been described and
nontoxic therapeutic dosages have not been determined, caution should be taken
when using vanadium as a nutritional supplement. Bodybuilders and persons with
diabetes are tempted to take high doses because of its purported ability to
improve or mimic insulin action.
Animal studies have not been successful in proving the efficacy and safety of
vanadium. Death rates for laboratory animals are high when doses required to
reduce blood sugar are administered. In lower doses, high blood pressure
elevation and tremor have also been reported. High levels of vanadium may also
contribute to some bone and kidney diseases. Additional problems reported
- Gastrointestinal upset with low doses
- Manic depression with high doses
- Inhibition of protein synthesis
- Pulmonary irritation from inhaled vanadium dust (e.g., petroleum
- Oxidative damage to beta
Although vanadium is inhaled wherever petroleum is burned, it is not usually
a cause for concern. However, extremely high doses (e.g., in workers who clean
petroleum storage tanks) appear to irritate the lungs and may turn the tongue
green, but neither symptom appears to cause any long-term or serious problem.
High levels of vanadium may cause manic depression.
Experimentally, vanadium (1 and 2 mM concentrations) enhanced the effects of
heparin (2.5 mU/mL) in prolonging plasma clotting times (Funakoshi et al. 1992).
The mechanism behind this interaction is thought to be inhibition of coagulation
factors such as thrombin and factor Xa.
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Bender DA, Bender AE. Nutrition: A Reference Handbook. New York, NY:
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Funakoshi T, Shimada H, Kojima S, et al. Anticoagulant action of vanadate.
Chem Pharm Bull. 1992;40(1):174-176.
Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, Calif:
Prima Publishing; 1996:232-234.
Murray MT, Pizzorno JE. Enclyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed.
Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1998:283-284.
Role of vanadium as a mimic of insulin. Nutri Res Newslett.
Shealy CN. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies. Boston,
Mass: Element Books; 1998:268.
Werbach MR. Nutritional Influences on Illness. New Canaan, Conn: Keats
Publishing; 1987:87-88, 159.
Yale J-F, Lachance D, Bevan AP. Hypoglycemic effects of peroxovanadium
compounds in Sprague-Dawley and diabetic BB rats. Diabetes.
Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
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