Vanadium Insulin Moderator: Beneficial For Diabetics?
Vanadium is a mineral needed in small amounts in the diet. Vanadium is present in soil and in foods. It is also released when petroleum and petroleum products are burned. It is unclear exactly how much vanadium is needed in the diet, and its specific role in the body is uncertain, but vanadium does appear to be useful in treating several diseases.
In fact, vanadium was once prescribed as a cure for certain diseases. When it was realized that the amounts prescribed were toxic when used over time, the practice of using vanadium to treat illness was stopped. However, it is probably safe to say that some vanadium is necessary for optimal health.
Though the use of high doses of vanadium supplements remains controversial, there are studies on laboratory animals and a few on humans that suggest positive effects from using vanadium to treat certain conditions.
For example, insulin sensitivity improved in the short term in animals and some humans treated with vanadium, suggesting that vanadium may be useful in helping to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics (see Mol Cell Biochem. 2001 Feb;218(1-2):93-6, Metabolism. 2001 Jun;50(6):667-73, Endocrinology. 1989 Nov;125(5):2510-6)
One study on humans also showed a decrease in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in diabetics who were given vanadium supplements (see J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Mar;86(3):1410-7). Long-term use has not been studied, however, so using vanadium for diabetes should not be considered without guidance from a knowledgeable healthcare provider.
Some body builders and athletes believe that vanadium can enhance athletic performance (vanadyl was often used to elicit a “pump.” These days, bodybuilders are more likely to use a nitric oxide product). Again, these effects are anecdotal and have not been confirmed by clinical studies.
Vanadium also appears to reduce high blood pressure in animals (Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004 Oct;82(10):833-9) but the use of vanadium for this purpose in humans has not been tested.
While vanadium shows some promise in treating certain conditions, too much vanadium has been associated with depression and mania, particularly for people with psychotic forms of bipolar disorder. People with a history of mood disorders should not use vanadium supplements, and it may also be prudent for these people to follow a low vanadium diet.
While the body only absorbs about 5% of the vanadium in foods, sufficient amounts can be obtained from mushrooms, shellfish, and grains. Black pepper and dill weed are also significant sources of vanadium.
Adults who are advised to try vanadium supplements can take 0.5 to 1 mg per day without apparent risk of toxicity. This should be done with the guidance of a healthcare provider that is knowledgeable about the risks of using vanadium supplements.
And what about Vanadium side effects? Good question…
Vanadium should never be taken in amounts greater than 1.8 mg/day. Side effects from vanadium supplements may include nausea, stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. High doses of vanadium can cause liver or kidney disease. People who take blood-thinning medications such as Heparin should not use vanadium supplements, as the mineral can increase the blood thinning effects of these medications.