Vanadium is a trace mineral found in many foods. Scientists think your body may need vanadium in very small amounts for normal bone growth. Scientists aren't sure exactly what effects vanadium may have, or what amount might be helpful, however, they know high doses of vanadium are likely to be unsafe.
Most studies on vanadium have been animal studies. Since few clinical trials involving humans have been completed, vanadium isn't recommended for any disease or condition. However, it may have an effect on blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Several animal studies and a few small human studies suggest that vanadium may lower blood sugar levels and improve sensitivity to insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. In one study of people with type 2 diabetes, vanadium also lowered total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
However, the dosages used in these studies were far above the tolerable upper intake level (UL). Scientists don't know whether taking vanadium at those levels is safe -- or whether it actually works. Other studies suggest that vanadium has no effect on blood sugar levels.
Body Building/Performance Enhancement
Vanadium is sometimes advertised as a sports supplement, but there is no evidence that it boosts performance. In fact, one clinical trial examining vanadium use in athletes found no benefit at all.
The best food sources of vanadium are mushrooms, shellfish, black pepper, parsley, dill weed, beer, wine, grain and grain products, and artificially sweetened drinks.
Vanadium exists in several forms, including vandal sulfate and vanadate. Vanadyl sulfate is most commonly found in nutritional supplements.
How to Take It
You should not give vanadium supplements to a child.
Scientists don't know how much vanadium people need. The average diet provides 6 - 18 mcg.
The safe upper limit is 1.8 mg. Higher doses may be toxic.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Common side effects include stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and gas.
Some animals given vanadate supplements have developed anemia, low white blood cell counts (the cells that help to fight infection), and high cholesterol. People with high cholesterol, anemia, an infection, or any health problem causing a low white blood cell count, such as HIV, should not take vanadium without first talking to their doctor.
Because vanadium may lower blood sugar levels, people with diabetes who take medication to control blood sugar could be at risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar if they take vanadium.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take vanadium. Animal studies linked high doses of vanadium with decreased fertility, birth defects, and other complications.
People with kidney disease should not take vanadium.
High doses of vanadium (more than 1.8 mg per day) may cause liver or kidney damage, and research suggests vanadium may be harmful to the kidneys. Other studies link high blood levels of vanadium with an increased risk of breast cancer.
If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use vanadium without first talking to your health care provider.
Anticoagulant or antiplatelet dugs (blood thinners) -- Vanadium may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with these drugs:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix)
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
Drugs for diabetes -- Vanadium may lower blood sugar levels, so people who also take medications to lower blood sugar could be at risk of developing hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
Cicero AF, Derosa G, Gaddi A. What do herbalists suggest to diabetic patients in order to improve glycemic control? Evaluation of scientific evidence and potential risks. Acta Diabetol. 2004 Sep;41(3):91-8.
Cusi K, Cukier S, DeFronzo RA, Torres M, Puchulu FM, Rdondo JC. Vanadyl sulfate improves hepatic and muscle insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;86(3):1410-1417.
Fukunaga K. Benefit of vanadium compound in therapy for cardiovascular diseases. Yakugaku Zasshi. 2012; 132(3):279-84.
Goldwaser I, Gefel D, Gershonov E, Fridkin M, Shechter Y. Insulin-like effects of vanadium: basic and clinical implications. J Inorg Biochem. 2000;80(1-2):21-25.
Guo JY, Han CC, Liu YM. A Contemporary Treatment Approach to Both Diabetes and Depression by Cordyceps sinensis, Rich in Vanadium. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010 Sep;7(3):387-9.
Korbecki J, Baranowska-Bosiacka I, Gutowska I, Chlubek D. Biochemical and medical importance of vanadium compounds. Acta Biochim Pol. 2012; 59(2):195-200.
Nahas R, Moher M. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Jun;55(6):591-6. Review.
Rakel D. Rakel Integrative Medicine, 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier. 2007.
Rustenbeck I. Unconventional antidiabetic agents. Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2007 Apr;30(4):131-7. Review.
Samanta S, et al. Protective effects of vanadium against DMH-induced genotoxicity and carcinogenesis in rat colon: removal of O(6)-methylguanine DNA adducts, p53 expression, inducible nitric oxide synthase downregulation and apoptotic induction. Mutat Res. 2008;650(2):123-31.
Shukla R, Bhonde RR. Adipogenic action of vanadium: a new dimension in treating diabetes. Biometals. 2008;21(2):205-10.
Smith DM, Pickering RM, Lewith GT. A systematic review of vanadium oral supplements for glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitis. QJM. 2008;101(5):351-8.
Srivastava AK. Anti-diabetic and toxic effects of vanadium compounds. Mol Cell Biochem. 2000;206(1-2):177-182.
Tang LY, Su Y, He JR, et al. Urinary titanium and vanadium and breast cancer: a case-control study. Nutr Cancer. 2012; 64(3):368-76.
Zhang SQ, Zhong XY, Chen GH, Lu WL, Zhang Q. The anti-diabetic effects and pharmacokinetic profiles of bis(maltolato) oxovanadium in non-diabetic and diabetic rats. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008;60(1):99-105.