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Vanadium

3 Health Benefits to Know About

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Updated July 03, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Vanadium is a trace metal found in certain foods and sold in dietary supplement form.

Although it's thought that humans may need small quantities of vanadium for certain biological functions, scientists have yet to determine whether vanadium should be considered an essential nutrient.

Health Benefits of Vanadium

Although research on the health effects of vanadium is fairly limited and dated, there's some evidence that vanadium may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at several key study findings:

1) Diabetes

Preliminary research suggests that vanadate (a vanadium compound) may help improve the body's metabolism of blood sugar (also known as "glucose"). Additionally, some preliminary studies indicate that vanadate and other vanadium compounds may promote the movement of glucose into cells (where glucose is broken down and used for energy).

So far, very few clinical trials have tested the use of vanadium in treatment of diabetes. However, one of the few human-based studies found that vanadyl sulfate (a form of vanadium) had some beneficial effects on patients with type 2 diabetes.

Published in the journal Metabolism in 2000, the study involved 16 diabetes patients. After six weeks of treatment with vanadyl sulfate, some patients showed improvements in glucose metabolism and cholesterol levels. Still, vanadyl sulfate did not appear to fight insulin resistance or help regulate blood sugar levels.

2) Cancer

Vanadium shows promise for cancer treatment, according to a 2002 report published in Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology. For instance, laboratory studies on human cells demonstrate that vanadium may help promote apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death involved in stopping the spread of cancer cells). There's also some evidence that vanadium may help suppress the growth of cancerous tumors, according to the report.

Since there is currently a lack of clinical trials on vanadium's effectiveness against cancer, it's too soon to recommend vanadium for cancer treatment (or cancer prevention).

3) Bone Health

Tests on animals and human cells indicate that vanadium compounds may help promote osteogenesis (a process in which bone-forming cells lay down new bone material), according to a 2006 report published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. However, clinical data on the use of vanadium for prevention or treatment of bone disorders are currently lacking.

Common Uses for Vanadium

Vanadium supplements are touted as a natural remedy for a number of health conditions, including:

  • anemia
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity

In addition, proponents claim that vanadium can treat hangovers, enhance exercise performance, and prevent cancer.

Side Effects and Safety

Little is known about the safety of taking vanadium in the long term. However, there's some evidence that vanadium may be harmful to people with certain health conditions (including disorders of the blood, respiratory system, and immune system).

In addition, some research suggests that excessive consumption of vanadium may cause damage to the liver and/or kidneys.

Given these safety concerns, it's important to seek medical advice if you're considering the use of vanadium.

Use of vanadium may trigger several side effects, including stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Food Sources and Supplements

Dill seeds and black pepper are the two top food sources of vanadium. Vanadium can also be found in whole grains, seafood, meats, and dairy products.

Available for purchase online, vanadium supplements are also sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using Vanadium for Health

If you're considering the use of vanadium for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a chronic condition with vanadium and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources

Barceloux DG. "Vanadium." J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1999;37(2):265-78.

Barrio DA, Etcheverry SB. "Potential use of vanadium compounds in therapeutics." Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(31):3632-42.

Barrio DA, Etcheverry SB. "Vanadium and bone development: putative signaling pathways." Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2006 Jul;84(7):677-86.

Evangelou AM. "Vanadium in cancer treatment." Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2002 Jun;42(3):249-65.

Goldfine AB, Patti ME, Zuberi L, Goldstein BJ, LeBlanc R, Landaker EJ, Jiang ZY, Willsky GR, Kahn CR. "Metabolic effects of vanadyl sulfate in humans with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: in vivo and in vitro studies." Metabolism. 2000 Mar;49(3):400-10.

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