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Vanadium is a trace mineral that is found naturally in soil and in biological composition. While little is known about this particular element's biological processes, it has gained some attention regarding the potentially positive effects of vanadium on diabetes. Research shows, however, that its use with regard to diabetes treatment, body building and blood pressure maintenance can be more detrimental than beneficial. This means that including vanadium-rich foods in the diet remains the safest approach to increasing the body’s natural supply of vanadium.
Vanadium is a metal that is found in conjunction with other minerals. It is mined primarily in Russia, China and South Africa, and its primary use has been the strengthening of steel, especially steel used to make high-speed tools. Trace elements of vanadium are also found in biological systems, especially sea life. Its role in mammals and birds remains largely unclear, although deficiencies have resulted in observed complications in some animals.
The most promising effect of vanadium on diabetes appears to come from the mineral's ability to mimic insulin in bodily function and to improve insulin sensitivity. It is known, however, that higher quantities of vanadium are toxic. It reacts negatively with other biological processes and has been shown in experimental studies to cause death. Scientists have worked to produce a less toxic form of ingestible vanadium, but results of the effort remained untested in the early 21st century.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that vanadium spills of 1,000 pounds or more be reported. Various other governmental regulatory agencies also have guidelines concerning vanadium exposure and toxicity. Vanadium has been shown to accumulate in the kidneys and bones, and laboratory studies have implicated it in fetal damage.
While the effects of vanadium on diabetes appear to be positive, the apparent risks from supplementation — it is not known how much intake is appropriate, so vanadium-specific dietary supplements are not recommended — makes proper nutrition the best method of increasing this element's presence in the body. Foods that are rich in vanadium include radishes, mushrooms, shellfish, black pepper, dill weed, beer, wine and grain. Overall mineral supplements that contain small amounts of vanadium may be beneficial.
While vanadium intake may be productive, possibly even necessary, it should be accomplished through food intake to prevent possible complications. Any dietary supplemental regimen containing vanadium should be strictly monitored by a medical professional. The effects of vanadium on diabetes may hold promise, but potentially greater promise has been seen in other, safer applications.
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