Vanadium - Medical & Other Uses
Medical & Other Uses
Vanadium is a trace mineral which has been considered essential for humans since the 1970s. The average adult body contains about 100 mcg of vanadium and it is found in the blood, organ tissues and bones.
What it does in the body
Vanadium may act as a co-factor for enzymes involved in blood sugar metabolism, lipid and cholesterol metabolism, bone and tooth development, fertility, thyroid function, hormone production and neurotransmitter metabolism.
Absorption and metabolism
Vanadium absorption from food may be as low as 5 to 10 per cent. Most is eliminated in the feces. Vanadium is mainly stored in fat and bone.
Vanadium deficiency has not been described in man. Deficiency in animals causes infertility, reduction in red blood cell production leading to anemia; iron metabolism defects; and poor bone, tooth and cartilage formation. It is possible that deficiency in humans may lead to high cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase susceptibility to heart disease and cancer.
Good sources of vanadium include whole grain breads and cereals, vegetable oils, nuts, root vegetables, parsley, fish, radishes, dill, lettuce and strawberries. The vanadium content of food depends on the soil in which it is grown. Airborne vanadium may also be an important source. processed or refined foods may contain higher levels of vanadium than unprocessed foods, possibly because of contamination from stainless steel processing equipment.
Recommended dietary allowances
There is no RDA for vanadium. A daily intake of 10 to 100 mcg is probably safe and adequate.
Vanadyl sulfate is the most common form of nutritional supplement.
Toxic effects of excess intake
Vanadium can easily be toxic if taken in synthetic form. It may cause nerve damage, blood vessel damage, kidney failure, liver damage, stunted growth, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Excess vanadium in humans has been suggested as a factor in bipolar disorder. 1
Therapeutic uses of supplements
Animal experiments have shown that vanadium can mimic the effects of insulin and reduce blood sugar levels from high to normal. These benefits are seen with low doses and there have been limited clinical trials with vanadium salts in patients with Type II diabetes, indicating that vanadium may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetes.2
In a study published in 1996, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York compared the effects of 100 mg/day of oral vanadyl sulfate in moderately obese diabetic and nondiabetic people. The results showed improvements in both liver and skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity in diabetics. Blood fat levels and oxidation were also reduced. Thus vanadium may also be useful in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis in diabetic people.3
Vanadium may be beneficial in treating subnormal thyroid function. Limited animal experiments suggest that vanadium may prevent the occurrence of tumors.4 Vanadium supplements have been used as performance enhancers by athletes, although there is little research evidence to support their effectiveness.5
Interactions with other nutrients
Vitamin C, chromium, iron, protein, chloride and aluminum may reduce vanadium absorption.
1 Naylor GJ; Corrigan FM; Smith AH; Connelly p; Ward NI Further studies of vanadium in depressive psychosis. Br J psychiatry, 1987 May, 150:, 656-61
2 Verma S; Cam MC; McNeill JH. Nutritional factors that can favorably influence the glucose/insulin system: vanadium. J Am Coll Nutr, 1998 Feb, 17:1, 11-8
3 Halberstam M; Cohen N; Shlimovich p; Rossetti L; Shamoon H Oral vanadyl sulfate improves insulin sensitivity in NIDDM but not in obese nondiabetic subjects. Diabetes, 1996 May, 45:5, 659-66
4 Hanauske U; Hanauske AR; Marshall MH; Muggia VA; Von Hoff DD. Biphasic effect of vanadium salts on in vitro tumor colony growth. Int J Cell Cloning, 1987 Mar, 5:2, 170-8
5 Fawcett Jp; Farquhar SJ; Walker RJ; Thou T; Lowe G; Goulding A. The effect of oral vanadyl sulfate on body composition and performance in weight-training athletes. Int J Sport Nutr, 1996 Dec, 6:4, 382-90