Vanadium is a little-known trace mineral that benefits your health in major ways. Vanadium increases your body’s insulin sensitivity, allowing your cells to take in more glucose from the food you eat. This reduces high blood glucose levels, resulting in improved energy and brain performance in people who experience low blood sugar and blood sugar spikes, including prediabetics and diabetics. Vanadium also helps improve bone health and could be helpful in the prevention of osteoporosis. Through its impressive ability to stimulate the immune system’s production of antibodies, it even helps with infectious diseases. Vanadium’s effects on the immune system also make it helpful against cancer and inflammatory conditions.
Vanadium is a trace mineral found in shellfish, buckwheat, safflower, sunflower seeds, peanuts, garlic, tomatoes, cabbage and other foods, with black pepper being the richest source. In general, herbs and spices, seafoods, grains and vegetables tend to contain this mineral, whereas meat, dairy and fruit contain little to no vanadium . Vanadium deficiency is uncommon, and because it’s a trace mineral, you only need a small amount of it. However, vanadium supplements are used to treat low blood sugar, prediabetes and diabetes, because of its ability to act like insulin and improve its effects. Vanadium has also been used to help treat infections, reduce high cholesterol, improve heart disease, treat anemia and boost athletic performance .
1. Helps Treat Diabetes
Because of vanadium’s ability to enhance insulin-the hormone that moves sugar from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as fuel-it’s helpful for people who deal with low blood sugar and blood sugar spikes, such as those with prediabetes and diabetes.
In experimental studies, vanadium has shown great potential in patients of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes . It helps lower blood sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity by enhancing healthy glucose transport into the cells. In a study on diabetic gerbils treated with vanadyl sulfate, the supplemental form of vanadium, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) was effectively reduced. The researchers found that the vanadium had activated the signaling pathway for proteins leading to GLUT4 translocation. In other words, glucose utilization improved due to increased insulin sensitivity .
In a 30-month trial on 14 patients with type 1 diabetes, the participants received 50 to 100 mg of vanadium a day in the form of vanadyl sulfate. As their fasting blood sugar levels continually decreased, the dose of vanadyl sulfate was reduced over time. In addition to lower blood sugar levels, the patients also had lower cholesterol by the end of the trial. No adverse side effects occurred during the treatment .
In 40 type 2 diabetes patients, 100 mg of vanadyl sulfate a day lowered blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity, also with zero side effects . While there’s still more research to be done, existing evidence points to promising effects of vanadium in the treatment of diabetes.
2. Supports Bone Health
Diabetes affects the entire body, including the health of bones. It reduces bone mineral density, bone crystal length, bone volume and connective tissue health. Vanadium supplementation has been shown in animal experiments to improve bone health and function in both diabetic and non-diabetic rats. This action not only helps protect diabetics from bone problems but also non-diabetics from osteoporosis, which is a disease involving serious bone density loss .
Vanadium works by helping to increase bone formation and balancing calcium levels in the body. It promotes osteogenesis, which is the bone-forming process in which cells lay down new bone material . This research suggests vanadium should be included in supplement formulas for bone maintenance and that it could even help treat osteoporosis in combination with other minerals that support bone formation.
3. Helps Fight Cancer
According to a study published in 2018 in Metal Ions in Life Sciences, vanadium is effective against both diabetes and cancer, and has the potential to be developed into a drug effective against multiple diseases. Vanadium modifies metabolic processes involved in the initial development of cancer, in a way that’s similar to the development of diabetes. Test tube studies on human cells have shown vanadium is capable of inducing apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancer cells. It also works to suppress cancerous tumor growth .
4. Boosts Your Immune System
Research studies indicate that vanadium works as an immunostimulant, as it plays a role in the signaling of B cells, which are immune cells that produce antibodies in response to foreign threats. Vanadium supports and enhances the ability of B cells to detect threats and manufacture antibodies in response, which in turn neutralize these microbial threats . Along with other nutrients like zinc and vitamin C, vanadium could be used to boost the immune system, prevent infections and help fight them. One study suggests it’s useful in the treatment of endemic diseases in tropical countries, as well as HIV–a virus linked to low levels of antibodies in the body .
5. Reduces Inflammation
Through the same mechanism of regulating your immune system’s signaling pathways, vanadium is able to lower inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is connected to many diseases, and its ability to reduce inflammation makes it an even more promising candidate in the treatment of diseases like cancer and diabetes .
Vanadium Supplementation Tips and Safety Warnings
People with impaired liver or gallbladder function, or with inflammatory bowel issues may have vanadium deficiency due to poor mineral absorption and could benefit from supplementing. People looking to treat prevent or diabetes naturally can also benefit. Vanadium’s role in the human body is still being studied, but the daily dietary intake of vanadium is estimated to be 10 micrograms (mcg) to 2 mg.
Too much supplementation with vanadium can be toxic, and experts recommend taking no more than 10 to 125 micrograms of vanadium a day in supplemental form. Vanadium is rarely taken alone because it pairs well with other minerals that support bones and stable blood sugar, such as chromium, calcium and magnesium. One way to ensure you’re getting enough vanadium is to take a multivitamin that contains it.