Vanadium is a trace mineral found in a wide variety of foods. Scientists are unsure about whether you actually need vanadium or what exact benefits the mineral might provide. If your body does require vanadium, however, you would need only very small amounts. Vanadium does appear to have some health benefits for certain people, particularly for diabetics. Before you begin taking vanadium supplements for any reason, consult your doctor about the safest dosage amount and potential health risks.
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Helps Control Blood Sugar
The main potential benefit of vanadium is helping to control blood-sugar levels in people who have diabetes, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dosages of vanadium supplements are typically rather high for blood sugar-control benefits, however. The preliminary research on vanadium for controlling glucose levels in diabetics stemmed from some successful studies on a similar trace mineral known as chromium, notes the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM. Vanadium may also improve insulin sensitivity, as well as lower total and LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” levels in people with type 2 diabetes, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.
May Prevent Cancer and Osteoporosis
In addition to the blood sugar-control benefits for diabetics, vanadium may also help in treating or preventing osteoporosis, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. For osteoporosis, vanadium appears to deposit in the bones, which could help in strengthening them. Another possible benefit of taking vanadium supplements is protecting against colon cancer, but this claim is based only on animal studies, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Although vanadium is often marketed as a bodybuilding or sports-performance supplement, no research has proven these benefits.
You get very small amounts of vanadium in many different foods and beverages, such as beer, wine, mushrooms, shellfish, parsley and grains, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. But your body absorbs only 5 percent of the vanadium from foods. Also, there are no set daily requirements for dietary vanadium, although most people in the United States get anywhere from 10 to 60 micrograms of vanadium each day through their diets, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Also, keep in mind that the purported health benefits of dietary and supplemental vanadium are based on only weak evidence -- mostly animal studies and a few small clinical trials in humans.
In addition to the weak scientific evidence supporting vanadium’s purported health benefits, the supplement could pose serious health risks. In fact, taking high doses of vanadium can lead to toxicity as the mineral builds up in your body, possibly causing liver or kidney damage, warns the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. You should never take more than 1.8 milligrams of vanadium per day, and don’t give vanadium supplements to children. Vanadium supplementation can cause side effects like diarrhea, stomach pain, gas and nausea, as well as adverse effects like anemia, low white blood-cell counts and elevated cholesterol levels, cautions the University of Maryland Medical Center. Talk with your doctor before taking vanadium.