Note: There are serious safety concerns regarding vanadium use.

Vanadium, a mineral, is named after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty, youth, and luster. Taking vanadium will not make you beautiful, youthful, and lustrous, but evidence from animal studies suggests it may be an essential micronutrient. That is, your body may need it, but in very low doses.

Based on promising animal studies, high doses of vanadium have been tested as an aid to controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Like chromium , another trace mineral used in diabetes, vanadium has also been recommended as an aid in bodybuilding. However, animal studies suggest that taking high doses of vanadium can be harmful.

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Requirements/Sources  

We don't know exactly how much vanadium people require, but estimates range from 10 to 30 mcg daily. (To realize how tiny this amount is, consider that it's about one millionth of the amount of calcium you need.) Human deficiencies have not been reported, but goats fed a low-vanadium diet have developed birth defects. 1

Vanadium is found in very small amounts in a wide variety of foods, including: breakfast cereals, canned fruit juices, wine, beer, buckwheat, parsley, soy, oats, olive oil, sunflower seeds, corn, green beans, peanut oil, carrots, cabbage, and garlic. The average daily American diet provides between 10 and 60 mcg of vanadium. 2

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Therapeutic Dosages  

In various studies, vanadium has been used at doses thousands of times higher than is present in the diet, as high as 125 mg per day. However, there are serious safety concerns about taking vanadium at such high doses. We do not recommend exceeding the dose given in Safety Issues .

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Therapeutic Uses  

Vanadium has been proposed as a treatment for diabetes , based on promising studies in animals and a few small human trials. 3,4

Vanadium is also sometimes used as a sports supplement by bodybuilders, but there is no evidence that it is effective. 5

Because studies in mice have found that vanadium is deposited in bone, 6 some practitioners of nutritional medicine have suggested that it may be helpful for osteoporosis . However, since many toxic metals also accumulate in the bones without strengthening them, this doesn't prove that vanadium is good for bones.

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What Is the Scientific Evidence for Vanadium?  

Diabetes  

Studies in rats with and without diabetes suggest that vanadium may have an insulin-like effect, reducing blood sugar levels. 7-17 Based on these findings, preliminary studies involving humans have been conducted, with some promising results. 18-23 However, of 151 studies recently reviewed, none were of sufficient quality to judge whether or not vanadium is at all beneficial in type 2 diabetes. 31 The researchers did find that vanadium was often associated with gastrointestinal side effects. At present, it is not possible to say whether vanadium is helpful (or, for that matter, safe) for people with diabetes.

Bodybuilding  

Vanadium has been promoted as a body-building sports supplement. However, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 31 weight-trained athletes failed to find any benefit at a dosage more than 1,000 times the nutritional dose. 24

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* Safety Issues  

Studies in humans and animals suggest that vanadium can cause toxic effects and might accumulate in the body if taken to excess. 25-29  The safe upper intake level for adults has been set at 1.8 mg. 30 Maximum safe doses for children have not yet been determined.

Another potential risk with vanadium involves its purported benefits. If vanadium does, in fact, improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes, the net result could be a potentially dangerous fall in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). For this reason, medical supervision is recommended before adding vanadium to a regimen of standard diabetes medications.

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Interactions You Should Know About  

  • If you are taking insulin or oral diabetes medications : Seek medical supervision before taking vanadium because you may need to reduce your dose of diabetes medication.