Vanadium is a metallic trace mineral found in minute amounts in the human body. This soft, steel-gray, corrosion-resistant metal was first discovered by the Spanish mineralogist Andres Manuel del Rio, who believed it was an impure chromium ore. The mineral was rediscovered in 1830 by The Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefstrom, who named it after Vanadis, the Norse goddess of youth and beauty. Vanadium is used industrially in the production of high-strength steel alloys. Its role in human nutrition is not fully known, but it is believed to play a role in regulating glucose metabolism and as a building material for bones and teeth. Vanadium is available as a dietary supplement in the form of vanadyl sulfate.
Low concentrations of vanadium are found in most foods. Good sources include milk, lobster, vegetable oils, vegetables, grains, and cereals. The estimated average daily intake for Americans ranges from 10 to 60 micrograms.
Although vanadium is believed to be an essential trace mineral, a vanadium-deficiency disease has not been identified in humans.
In general, vanadium compounds have low toxicity because the mineral is rapidly excreted via the urine, with a biological half-life of 20 to 40 hours. Industrial exposure to vanadium dust has been associated with irritation of the upper respiratory tract characterized by wheezing, nasal hemorrhage, cough, sore throat, and chest pain. Vanadyl sulfate is commonly used by athletes in doses up to 60 milligrams per day, and it appears to be safe at this dosage range. Doses above 150 milligrams per day have been associated with gastrointestinal symptoms. Because it may influence blood sugar levels and insulin requirements, people with diabetes should not take vanadium supplements unless supervised by a physician.