The Health Benefits of Vanadium

vanadium
Dill seeds (pictured) are a food source of vanadium. Helena Wahlman/Maskot/Getty Images
In This Article

Vanadium is a trace metal found in certain foods and beverages including water (in very small amounts). Vanadium is also sold in dietary supplement form.

Although it's thought that humans may need small quantities of vanadium for certain biological functions, scientists have yet to determine whether vanadium should be considered an essential nutrient.

Health Benefits

In alternative medicine, vanadium supplements are touted as a natural remedy for a number of health conditions, including:

  • Anemia
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Edema
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity

In addition, some proponents of alternative medicine claim that vanadium can treat hangovers, enhance exercise performance, and prevent cancer.

Research on the health effects of vanadium is limited and much of it is dated. There is not enough scientific research to support most of the most popular uses of vanadium. However, there is some evidence that vanadium may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at several key study findings:

Diabetes

Preliminary research suggests that vanadium compounds may help improve the body's metabolism of blood sugar, also known as "glucose." So far, very few clinical trials have tested the use of vanadium in the treatment of diabetes in humans. These studies are hampered by factors including that different vanadium compounds may have different actions, as well as not knowing the toxic level for vanadium.

The research is still ongoing. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that there is no strong evidence that vanadium may improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Cancer

Vanadium compounds are being studied for their potential use in different forms of cancer treatment. For instance, laboratory studies on human cells demonstrate that vanadium may help promote apoptosis—a type of programmed cell death involved in stopping the spread of cancer cells. Another line of research is into whether it can assist immunotherapy. Oncolytic viruses may be used to attack tumors, and vanadium compounds may enhance their effects in some cases.

Since there is currently a lack of clinical trials on vanadium's effectiveness against cancer, it's too soon to recommend vanadium for cancer treatment or cancer prevention.

Bone Health

Tests on animals and human cells indicate that vanadium compounds may help promote osteogenesis, a process in which bone-forming cells lay down new bone. However, clinical data on the use of vanadium for prevention or treatment of bone disorders are currently lacking.

Possible Side Effects

Little is known about the safety of taking vanadium regularly. However, there's some evidence that vanadium may be harmful to people with certain health conditions—including disorders of the blood, respiratory system, and immune system. In addition, some research suggests that excessive consumption of vanadium may cause damage to the liver and/or kidneys.

Given these safety concerns, it's important to seek medical advice if you're considering the use of vanadium.

Use of vanadium may trigger several side effects, including stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb.

In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Dosage and Preparation

There is not enough scientific evidence to establish a recommended dose of vanadium. The minimal risk level for oral intake of vanadium is 0.01 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day for intermediate-duration exposure of two weeks to one year. Higher doses taken for a long period of time may not be safe and increases the risk of side effects.

The appropriate dose for you may depend on several factors including your age, gender, and medical history. Speak to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice.

What to Look For

Dill seeds and black pepper are the two top food sources of vanadium. Vanadium can also be found in whole grains, seafood, meats, and dairy products.

Available for purchase online, vanadium supplements are also sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements. The supplement is often sold in capsule form and may be combined with other herbal supplements.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend vanadium as a treatment for any condition. If you're considering the use of vanadium for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician first. Self-treating a condition with vanadium and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Additionally, use best practices when purchasing supplements in order to protect your health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that you look for a Supplement Facts label on the product that you buy. The label provides information about what is in each serving of the supplement including the amount of active ingredients per serving, and other added ingredients.

Lastly, the organization suggests that you look for a product that contains a seal of approval from a third party organization that provides quality testing. These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

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Article Sources

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  1. Treviño S, Díaz A, Sánchez-Lara E, Sanchez-Gaytan BL, Perez-Aguilar JM, González-Vergara E. Vanadium in biological action: Chemical, pharmacological aspects, and metabolic implications in diabetes mellitus. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2019;188(1):68–98. doi:10.1007/s12011-018-1540-6

  2. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Diabetes and dietary supplements. Updated November 2014.

  3. Sinha A, Banerjee K, Banerjee A, et al. Induction of apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cell line, HCT-116 by a vanadium- Schiff base complex. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;92:509-518. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2017.05.108

  4. Zamarin D. Vanadium: A panacea for resistance to oncolytic immunotherapy?. Mol Ther. 2018;26(1):9–12. doi:10.1016/j.ymthe.2017.12.006

  5. Glenske K, Donkiewicz P, Köwitsch A, et al. Applications of metals for bone regenerationInt J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):826. doi:10.3390/ijms19030826

  6. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for vanadium. Updated September 2012.

  7. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ToxGuide for vanadium V. Updated October 2012.

  8. Bagchi D, Swaroop A. Food Toxicology. CRC Press. 2016

Additional Reading

  • Vanadium. Natural Medicines Database. Professional Monograph. Updated 2018.

  • Barceloux DG. Vanadium. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1999;37(2):265-78. doi:10.1081/clt-100102425