Supplements: Vanadium

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Vanadium is an essential trace mineral. It is present in varying amounts in the soil and in many foods. It can also be inhaled from the air as a result of burning petroleum or petroleum products. At the end of the last century, vanadium was thought to be a cure for various diseases, but it turned out to be toxic at the high doses prescribed. Vanadium is necessary for bone and tooth development. Too little vanadium may result in high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, poor blood sugar control (for example, diabetes or hypoglycemia), and cardiovascular and kidney disease. However, the effects of vanadium deficiency in humans have not been studied.


  • Vanadium improves blood sugar control in experimental animals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus; however, no human studies have been conducted to support these findings.
  • High doses of vanadium improve the strength of bones and teeth in experimental animals.
  • Studies have not been able to determine definitively any performance-enhancing effects of vanadium (for example, in body building).
  • Vanadium may reduce cholesterol in experimental animals. Heart disease rates are low in areas of the world (for example, South America) where soils contain high levels of vanadium.
  • No cause and effect relationship has been demonstrated, however.

Dietary Sources

The best sources of vanadium are sunflower, safflower, corn, and olive oils, as well as buckwheat, parsley, oats, rice, green beans, carrots, cabbage, pepper, and dill. It is important to note, however, that only about 5 percent of vanadium is absorbed by the body; most of it is eliminated in the feces. Vanadium supplementation is rarely, if ever, necessary. Eating any of the above foods, particularly vegetable oils, will provide a sufficient amount of vanadium. Some experts do not recommend taking vanadium supplements until more is known about how this mineral affects the human body.

Other Forms

Vanadium exists in several forms, including vanadyl and vanadate. Vanadyl sulfate is most commonly found in nutritional supplements. Because of its toxicity, some experts believe that vanadium should be considered a drug and not a nutritional supplement.

How to Take It

Typical over-the-counter doses of vanadium are 30 to 60 mg per day in pill form.


Animal studies have not proven the efficacy or safety of vanadium in humans. Extremely high doses of inhaled vanadium (for example, in workers who clean petroleum storage tanks) irritate the lungs and turn the tongue green, but neither symptom causes any long-term or serious problems. High levels of vanadium may cause manic-depression. High levels of vanadium may contribute to some bone and kidney diseases.

Possible Interactions

The effects of vanadium are reduced by some psychiatric medications (for example, phenothiazines, monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Vitamin C, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), and methylene blue decrease vanadium levels in the body. Therefore, they are effective in treating manic depression, where vanadium levels are high. Tobacco decreases vanadium uptake. Vanadium and chromium should not be taken together.

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Previously Published in OSA Today Reproduced by permission
Updated on: 02/01/10