Vanadium: Medical Uses, Toxicity & Dosage

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson is about a little-known metal called vanadium. Although we know only a small amount about its potential biomedical effects, this lesson outlines vanadium's role in our bodies.

What is Vanadium?

Vana-what? Vanadium is a corrosion-resistant silvery metal. It's often used to help make steel. You might find this steel in everything from armor plating to car engines. Vanadium is even used in nuclear reactions. But this metal is also useful for our bodies. Let's find out how in this lesson on vanadium's medical uses, toxicity, and dosage.

Vanadium's Biomedical Role & Uses

Vanadium might be an essential trace element, but this notion is still up for grabs in the biomedical community at this point. In other words, if our bodies do need it, we need it in very small amounts. The average person naturally consumes a tiny 0.01 mg-2 mg per day of vanadium, but this is considered to be more than enough!

So why in the world do we need vanadium, if we need it at all? Well, it appears that vanadium might play a role in maintaining the health of our thyroid glands, hearts, nervous systems, and in regulating the utilization of glucose and fat within our bodies. It's critical to note that many of these suppositions for humans are based on data that has been extrapolated from animal-based studies. In other words, take everything with a grain of salt with respect to vanadium's role in people for now.

Bearing that in mind, vanadium has been touted as being potentially useful for the treatment of the following:

  • Diabetes, by lowering blood glucose
  • Parasitic tropical diseases
  • Cancer

Among other purported effects, vanadium may also be able to:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Decrease appetite, and thus help treat obesity
  • Act as a diuretic, or water pill
  • Significantly decrease blood pressure in limited circumstances
  • Increase the oxygen-binding capability of red blood cells
  • Increase muscle mass, as per weight-training athletes

Dosage & Toxicity

It's important to note that there is no conclusive evidence that a deficiency of vanadium causes significant biological dysfunction in humans. Thus, it's unclear exactly how much vanadium a healthy person needs and if such a person needs vanadium at all. Thus, all dosages are circumspect, and the line between a potentially therapeutic dosage and a toxic one isn't fully clear in many cases.

That being said, where can we get our daily dose of vanadium? Food! In fact, food contains more than enough vanadium for healthy people; there's no need to double the dose. A regular diet provides a person with up to 2 mg of vanadium per day.

Natural sources of vanadium include the following:

  • Buckwheat and oats
  • Dill, pepper, and radishes
  • Vegetable oils
  • Mushrooms
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs

Some of these can contain over 40 mg of vanadium per gram of food!

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