WHAT IS VANADIUM?
Vanadium is a micromineral (or trace element) that has a number of roles in the body which include supporting proper metabolism and promoting the development of strong bones and teeth. In this article I will be discussing the roles of vanadium in the body, the amount you need to consume, the best food sources and more.
WHEN WAS VANADIUM DISCOVERED?
Vanadium was discovered as the compound venadium pentoxide in 1801 by Spanish-Mexican metallurgist Andrés Manuel del Río. He made the discovery whilst studying minerals at the School of Mines. Manuel del Rio sent his findings to Europe for confirmation but they believed the vanadium he had discovered was actually an existing element – chromium. This caused Manuel del Rio to abandon his claim of a new element.
Thirty years later in 1831 Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefström re-discovered vanadium pentoxide. Sefström noticed the element in iron ore that was taken from a Swedish mine. He quickly realised that this new element was actually the same one that Manuel del Rio had discovered thirty years earlier and confirmed that Manuel del Rio’s initial findings were in fact correct.
In 1867 the English chemist Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe became the first person to isolate vanadium metal. He did this by using hydrogen gas to break vanadium chloride down into vanadium metal and hydrochloric acid.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE VANADIUM?
An average adult stores between 20 milligrams (mg) and 25mg of vanadium in their body with the highest concentrations occurring in the bones, fat, liver and spleen. Vanadium has only recently been classified as a micromineral and as such there is only limited research available on its functions. However, the current research suggests that vanadium may have the following roles in the human body:
– Activating certain enzymes (which are involved in chemical reactions throughout the body).
– Assisting in the metabolism of calcium, carbohydrates, catecholamine (hormones that are released in response to stress) and dietary fats.
– Assisting in the production of hormones.
– Assisting in the production of red blood cells.
– Improving insulin sensitivity in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
– Improving performance amongst bodybuilders (by mimicking the action of insulin and forcing more carbohydrates and proteins into the muscles).
– Preventing atherosclerosis (a condition where the artery walls become blocked and harden due to the build up of cholesterol, fatty deposits and plaque).
– Preventing certain cancers (including bone cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and prostate cancer).
– Preventing heart disease.
– Promoting bone and teeth development.
– Reducing the production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (a type of cholesterol that builds up and blocks blood vessel walls).
– Regulating blood glucose levels in a similar way to insulin (meaning that it can potentially be used to treat diabetes).
– Regulating sodium levels.
– Supporting healthy growth.
– Supporting a healthy reproductive system.
HOW MUCH VANADIUM DO YOU NEED?
Since vanadium has only been recognised as a micromineral recently no recommended daily allowance (RDA) has been set. Intakes of between 0.1mg and 1mg per day are thought to be both safe and adequate for meeting the body’s requirements. Most balanced diets will contain enough vanadium to match this requirement.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN VANADIUM?
Vegetables and seafood often contain high levels of vanadium. Mushrooms, oysters, parsley and spinach are very rich sources containing more than 0.1mg per 100g. Dairy products, seafood and whole grains are also good sources containing around 0.03mg of vanadium per 100g.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH VANADIUM?
Whilst there is no RDA for vanadium, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences has set an upper limit (UL) of 1.8mg per day. It is difficult to exceed this level through food alone but some supplements contain concentrations much higher than this. Therefore, it is recommended that you exercise extreme caution when taking vanadium supplements. If you do overdose on vanadium it can be extremely dangerous and lead to the following negative symptoms:
– Anemia (low red blood cell count).
– Blood vessel damage.
– Green tongue.
– Kidney failure.
– Liver damage.
– Lung irritation.
– Nerve damage.
– Poor appetite.
– Possibly contributing to the development of bipolar disorder (a mental disorder which leads to episodes of mania and depression).
– Skin irritation.
– Stomach problems.
– Stunted growth.
– Weak immune system (due to a low white blood cell count).
– Weight loss.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH VANADIUM?
There is no clear evidence to suggest that vanadium deficiency has an adverse effect on humans. However, it has been linked with the following possible side effects:
– Aggravating diabetes.
– Hypoglycaemia (extremely low blood glucose levels).
– Increasing cancer risk.
– Increasing heart disease risk.
– Increasing LDL cholesterol levels.
Vanadium is one of the newer micronutrients so much more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions can be drawn. Whilst it definitely appears to have some role in human health and may be an effective nutrient for disease prevention, the long term effects that it has on the body (particularly in supplement form) have not yet been established. Despite this, I hope this article has given you a good introduction to vanadium and its potential importance in human health.
Now I want to hear what you guys think. Did you know vanadium is essential for good health? Were you aware of the implications it has for people suffering from diabetes? Leave a comment and let me know.