Are Vanadium Supplements Effective For Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that impacts millions of Americans. It can cause numerous symptoms that negatively impact a person's quality of life.

Fortunately, there are several treatment options for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which can improve your symptoms and help you stay healthy. Many people with diabetes seek alternative treatment options in addition to the medications their doctor may prescribe. This is often through dietetic supplements.

One popular supplement for diabetes is vanadium. This article will explain more about diabetes, vanadium, and whether taking vanadium can help you to deal with symptoms of diabetes.

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the ability of your body to make the glucose from your food available to the cells in your body. People with diabetes have issues with producing enough insulin or using insulin efficiently. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose move from the blood into cells, where it can be used for energy.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that impacts the pancreas, where insulin is produced and released into the bloodstream. People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin or produce too little to properly transfer glucose into their cells, so they need supplemental insulin.

They must also frequently monitor their blood sugar to prevent their levels from getting too high or too low, which can lead to severe symptoms or cause permanent damage.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. It occurs when the body can't use insulin efficiently enough to keep blood sugar at healthy levels. Lifestyle changes are often the first line of treatment because exercising enough and eating a balanced diet can drastically reduce blood sugar levels over time and the unpleasant symptoms that they can cause. Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes may also have to take medication and monitor their blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of diabetes

Diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, is a concerning condition. Dramatic spikes or dips in blood sugar levels can lead to negative consequences in both the short and long term. Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, for example, can cause:

  • Organ damage

  • Increased risk of heart disease

  • Increased risk of stroke

  • Vision problems

  • Kidney disease

  • Nerve issues

If you suspect you have diabetes, make a doctor's appointment. Your doctor will review your family history, medical history, and symptoms. They will likely order a blood test to monitor your blood sugar levels. If you receive a diabetes diagnosis, your doctor will then work with you to create a treatment plan that works for you.

What is vanadium?

Vanadium can be naturally found in beer, wine, grains, shellfish, mushrooms, and parsley. It is considered an ultra-trace mineral, which means it is thought to be beneficial to the body in very small amounts.  Currently, we don't know exactly what effects vanadium has on the body, although it appears to be important in facilitating bone growth. How essential it is for humans has not yet been demonstrated.

What is vanadium used for?

It is often claimed that vanadium can help the following conditions:

  • Low blood sugar

  • Diabetes

  • High cholesterol

  • Tuberculosis

  • Anemia

  • Edema

  • Heart disease

Although this list of conditions may make vanadium sound like a miracle supplement, there isn't currently enough evidence to show that it can actually help them. Vanadium supplements could help tackle its deficiency, but vanadium deficiency is rare in humans, and there aren't parameters for diagnosing it.

Is it safe to use vanadium?

There is little risk of harm if you eat large amounts of foods rich in vanadium. Taking vanadium as a supplement is generally considered safe as long as it is in small amounts.

Research about vanadium is still in its infancy, so there isn't much information about what it can do to the body, especially when taken in large amounts as a supplement.

How much vanadium should I take for diabetes?

There is currently no set standard for the optimal dose of a vanadium supplement for either healthy people or those with diabetes. However, there is an established tolerable intake level of 1.8mg per day.

The tolerable upper intake level of a nutrient is the highest amount a person can ingest that will pose little risk of adverse effects in most people.

Many vanadium supplements contain a significantly higher dose than the tolerable intake level. The studies investigating how vanadium could help people with diabetes gave subjects doses that were much higher than the tolerable intake level, and there is no consensus as to whether taking vanadium at such levels is safe or effective.

When should I take vanadium for diabetes?

There are no official or agreed-upon circumstances for when a person with diabetes should take a vanadium supplement. If you decide to take vanadium for diabetes, talk to your doctor about its potential benefits, risks, and interactions with other supplements and medications you currently take.

It is always important to tell your doctor about all prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and supplements you're taking, as this can help them look for possible interactions that may cause adverse effects.

If your doctor agrees that a small dose of vanadium may help your diabetes, consider taking it. Not all supplements are created equal, so look for a vanadium supplement from a reputable brand that has been third-party tested to ensure it contains the ingredients on the label and to confirm that it does not contain high levels of contaminants.

Benefits of vanadium

Many people want to try taking vanadium because it is a mineral naturally found in foods that we already eat. This makes it seem more appealing than prescription medications containing unnatural ingredients. Besides seeming more natural, vanadium is also relatively inexpensive, typically costing under $20 for a month's supply.

Studies in cells and animal models have shown that vanadium improves insulin activity. However,, there is no evidence that vanadium supplementation will help diabetes management. There are, however, possible side effects when taking vanadium.

What are the side effects of vanadium?

Ingesting vanadium, especially in large amounts, can produce the following side effects:

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Headaches

  • Hypertension

  • Blood cell changes

  • Enlarged liver

Hypertension, blood cell changes, and an enlarged liver only occur if a person takes large amounts of vanadium over time, but there may be other side effects when ingested in the long term that we aren't yet aware of.

Additionally, being exposed to high levels of vanadium, whether you inhale or ingest it, can be dangerous. Some industrial processes can release vanadium into the atmosphere, including jet exhausts and coal emissions, which can have negative consequences on the body, including:

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Wheezing

  • Throat inflammation

Possible interactions

Vanadium is generally regarded as safe in small amounts, and there don't appear to be many possible interactions with medications.  Before taking vanadium, however, consult your doctor if you take blood thinners or diabetes medication. Common blood thinners include:

  • Clopidogrel (e.g. Plavix)

  • Warfarin (e.g. Coumadin)

  • Heparin

  • Aspirin

Vanadium can increase your risk of bleeding in the presence of blood thinners like those listed above, and it can increase your risk of severely low blood sugar if taken with diabetes medications. If you decide to take vanadium and you have diabetes, be sure to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly.

Risks and warnings

Again, it's important to understand that only a few studies regarding vanadium intake and supplementation have involved humans, so most of the evidence on vanadium benefits is from animal model studies.

Animal studies can give us some idea of what a nutrient or chemical does to the body, but the findings from animal studies don't necessarily directly translate to the effects something can have on humans.

Alternatives for vanadium

Although taking vanadium supplements in small doses generally doesn't produce adverse health effects, there are several reasons to proceed with caution when taking them. If you have diabetes, and you are struggling to keep your blood sugars at healthy levels, there are several ways you can improve your blood sugar readings over time. Taking a supplement may be more appealing than making lifestyle changes, but some of the best, most effective strategies to keep blood sugars under control include:

A balanced diet

Your diet can go a long way in keeping your blood sugars steady. The word 'diet' is often associated with crash diets, fasts, and juice cleanses, but none of those are helpful or recommended for people with diabetes. The best diet for diabetes is one that emphasizes balance and includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and good fats.

It can be overwhelming to change your whole diet after receiving a diabetes diagnosis. Instead, start with small changes that add up over time to make a big difference to your health, like eating one more serving of vegetables per day than you already do.

Adequate exercise

Exercise also plays an important role in diabetes management, as movement can help lower blood sugar levels. This change happens immediately after exercise and they remain at adequate levels for some hours after. Therefore, exercising regularly can also help make your body more efficient at dealing with blood glucose, which in turn can make you less dependent on insulin.

Besides helping to improve your diabetes symptoms, physical activity can also help you:

  • Sleep better

  • Lose weight or maintain an optimal weight

  • Lower your blood pressure

  • Improve your cholesterol levels

Managing stress

Chronic stress can make it harder for your body to maintain normal blood sugar levels. When you feel especially stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which initiate the 'fight or flight' response. This is helpful in dangerous situations, but it's less helpful when the stress is related to social or work situations. These hormones prevent insulin from guiding glucose into your cells, thereby keeping your blood sugar levels high.

Unfortunately, a diabetes diagnosis can result in chronic stress, as the condition can be difficult and overwhelming to manage. That stress can make it even harder to manage, setting off a vicious cycle. Things you can try to reduce stress include:

  • Exercise

  • Breathing techniques

  • Breaking tasks down into smaller steps

  • Seeking professional help

Getting enough sleep

Sleep is another critical element of good health, and getting enough sleep can be highly beneficial for people with diabetes. The good news is that people with diabetes who get at least seven hours of sleep per night tend to have an easier time managing their symptoms. Adequate sleep can:

  • Keep your insulin use efficient

  • Keep your appetite steady

  • Maintain your weight at a healthy level

  • Keep your blood pressure under control

However, many people with diabetes also have sleep apnea, a condition characterized by sudden changes in breathing during the night. This can cause people to wake up intermittently, snore, and otherwise wake up feeling drowsy. Sleep apnea can also have a major impact on your ability to keep your blood sugars steady.

If you think you might have sleep apnea, whether you have diabetes or not, speak with your doctor about your symptoms. They can review your medical history and decide whether you should undergo a sleep study for further investigation.

Quitting smoking

If you currently smoke, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. This is especially true for people with diabetes, as smoking can make it even more difficult to manage your condition. Smokers already have an increased risk of developing diabetes and several other chronic conditions, as nicotine in cigarettes can elevate blood sugars.

There are support groups¹ across the entire country that can help you quit smoking, and your doctor can also suggest several strategies to kick this habit.

The lowdown

Although many people tout the benefits that vanadium can provide in diabetes management, there is not currently enough evidence to support the claim that people with diabetes should take vanadium.

If you decide to try taking vanadium for diabetes management, it's helpful to speak with your doctor first to ensure it won't interact with other medications you take or pose risks to your overall health.

It can be tempting to think that simply taking a supplement can improve your overall health, especially if you have a chronic disease like diabetes. Managing diabetes, however, is often not as simple as taking a supplement, whether it's vanadium, cinnamon, or something else.

There is much more evidence to support lifestyle changes, like those listed above, as well as the interventions your doctor may recommend, which include monitoring blood glucose, diabetes medications, and taking insulin.

  1. Freedom from smoking plus | Lung.org

Other sources:

Have you considered clinical trials for Diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

Have you considered clinical trials for Diabetes?

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