Vanadium: What is Vanadium and What does it Do?

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What is Vanadium?

Vanadium is a trace mineral that is necessary in very small amounts. In the body, it is found in the highest concentrations in bones, kidneys, liver, lung, spleen, and testes. When vanadium in food is eaten, it is converted in the stomach to a form called tetravalent vanadyl.

What does Vanadium Do?

Vanadium has a number of important functions in the body. It is involved in cellular metabolism, and is a necessary cofactor of a number of enzymes. It is also required for development of teeth and bones, growth and reproduction.

Some animal studies have found that vanadium appears to mimic insulin, increase insulin sensitivity, and help regulate blood glucose levels, leading to the speculation that vanadium may be potentially useful as a therapy for diabetes. However, it has not been proven effective in humans for this purpose, and the negative side effects of high doses are a concern.

There is some evidence that vanadium may help to lower LDL cholesterol levels and prevent cholesterol from building up on the walls of arteries. If so, vanadium might be beneficial as a treatment for atherosclerosis and heart disease, but it has not been proven to be effective in humans.

Other research indicates that vanadium may play a role in iodine metabolism and thyroid function.

Some bodybuilders and weightlifters take high-dose vanadium supplements based on the belief that it helps to build tissue.

Getting Enough Vanadium in your Diet

There is no established Recommended Daily Amount for vanadium. The Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake for vanadium is 100 micrograms per day. It is estimated that a well-balanced diet provides adults with approximately 10-50 micrograms per day, which is considered sufficient.

Food sources of vanadium include: beans, black pepper, corn, dill seed, mushrooms, olives, olive oil and other vegetable oils, parsley, radishes, root vegetables, shellfish, and whole grains.

Vanadium deficiency in humans is very rare, but low levels of vanadium may increase the risk of spinal degeneration and elevated cholesterol. Animals given a diet completely lacking in vanadium showed symptoms of diminished growth, impaired reproductive ability, and poor development of bones.

Ingesting greater than 25 mg of vanadium per day causes gastrointestinal problems and causes a green discoloration of the tongue. It also may increase the risk of arthritis and cause aching bones, weakened immune system, and colds. Excessive vanadium intake causes toxicity symptoms including breathing difficulties, heart and kidney damage, slowed growth, weight loss, diarrhea, itchy skin and rashes, and chest pains. High doses may also contribute to anemia and low white blood counts.

Vanadium interacts with the blood-thinning drug heparin, and those who are taking heparin should avoid supplements containing vanadium, as it can interfere with the action of the heparin and cause blood clots.

Always consult a medical professional before taking any supplements.