For anyone that’s ever taken a chemistry course, you’ve probably heard about the element vanadium (or maybe even vanadyl sulfate).
But in the weight loss and fitness world, the look people give you when you say vanadyl sulfate is the same look that they’ll give you when you say that weight training for women will make them bulky.
Same reaction, different concept, but you get the point.
Most people haven’t run into vanadyl sulfate in supplement form and have no idea why it may benefit them.
So, if you fall into that camp, this article is for you. We’re giving you an overview of vanadyl sulfate and if it’s something worth adding to your supplement stack—especially if you’re looking to drop a few pounds.
What is Vanadyl Sulfate?
Fun fact: Vanadium was actually named for the Norse goddess of beauty, Vanadis, because of its beautiful colors, but now it’s widely used as an alternative medicinal supplement.
Vanadium is a trace element that’s said to be essential for proper cell function and development and exists in two forms: vanadyl sulfate, the most common form, and vanadate.
As a trace mineral, vanadium is required in tiny amounts to support certain biological functions, but there’s not yet a conclusive decision as to whether vanadium is actually ‘essential.’
But if it’s not essential, what’s the point of taking it?
The Benefits Of Vanadyl Sulfate
#1 Blood Sugar Control
As one of the most common conditions globally, type 2 diabetes affects a staggering 462 million people, which corresponds to over 6% of the world’s population 1. And with more than a million deaths each year, it’s the ninth leading cause of mortality.
So, what can you do about it?
It turns out that vanadium compounds may improve glucose homeostasis and enhance insulin sensitivity. While most studies are conducted on animals, the few human studies suggest a beneficial role.
The mechanism behind how vanadyl sulfate regulates glucose still isn’t completely understood.
Some studies suggest that vanadate salts help to restore normal insulin receptor binding and to decrease the activity of certain enzymes 2, while others indicate that vanadium helps to restore the hepatic activity of key glycolytic and gluconeogenic enzymes, including glucose-6-phosphatase; this effect is of particular interest because chronic hyperglycemia has been shown to stimulate the body’s production of glucose by up-regulating the glucose-6-phosphatase complex, which is the final step before glucose is released by the liver 3.
In one study specifically, six weeks of treatment with vanadyl sulfate in patients with type 2 diabetes improved glycemic control by reducing basal endogenous glucose production and enhancing skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity 4. This pathway could be the potential key for achieving weight loss with vanadyl sulfate.
#2 Cholesterol and Lipid Profile
There’s no shortage of nutritional supplements designed to improve heart health and manage cholesterol levels and lipid profile. One of those that often isn’t talked about is vanadium, and studies show that it could offer some benefits.
It’s well established that lipid and lipoprotein abnormalities play a serious role in the pathogenesis and progression of conditions like atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. But while human evidence is still lacking, research on rodents has found an interesting link.
Previous studies suggest that long-term supplementation of vanadium in rats resulted in decreased total cholesterol levels; other studies found that vanadium significantly reduced triglyceride levels.
In humans, however, one cross-sectional study concluded that vanadium is associated with increased HDL-C and apoA-I levels, along with a decrease in atherogenic index values (TC/HDL-C, LDL-C/HDL-C, and apoB/apoA-I)—all important markets for cholesterol levels 5.
Does It Help With Weight Loss?
If you’re hoping for vanadium to stimulate some super-charged fat-burning pathway in your body, you can think again.
Instead, vanadyl sulfate may contribute indirectly to weight loss by regulating glucose levels to prevent blood sugar spikes and/or the negative side effects of high blood sugar and diabetes on weight.
Here’s a quick side note to help you understand how insulin resistance and imbalanced blood glucose can contribute to weight gain:
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose. It’s released by the pancreas when glucose enters the bloodstream to enable glucose uptake by cells. If you’re eating a diet that’s high in refined carbohydrates (or high in carbs in general), your body is constantly releasing insulin to manage blood glucose levels.
When your cells are constantly being bombarded with insulin, at some point, they may become dysfunctional. They stop responding to insulin and stop allowing glucose to enter cells.
As a result, you’re left with chronically high blood sugar, high insulin, and insulin resistance. It’s a disastrous trio, especially where weight is concerned.
By nature, insulin is a fat-storage hormone. When your cells are not taking up glucose, insulin will cause glucose to be stored as fat.
And when you have too much insulin circulating in the blood in combination with insulin resistance, it can cause damage to your blood vessels.
See how it all links together?
But when you can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake with something like vanadyl sulfate—combined with a healthy diet and physical activity, of course—you can drastically improve your body’s ability to utilize and store energy and also lose weight in the process.
There’s another aspect to it:
Studies show that because insulin may inhibit hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY), which is linked to regulating appetite, and boost leptin secretion in adipose tissue, changes in appetite may be mediated by vanadium intake 6.
One rodent study found that vanadium supplementation may increase insulin sensitivity in adipose tissue, decrease appetite, and reduce body fat by reducing NPY levels.
Vanadyl sulfate isn’t a miracle mineral for weight loss. It’s not going to rev your metabolism and help you shed fat in your sleep like a fat burner, but it may indirectly support weight loss by improving insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake.
MAB Khan, MJ Hashim, JK King, RD Govender, H Mustafa, J Al Kaabi. Epidemiology of Type 2 Diabetes - Global Burden of Disease and Forecasted Trends. J Epidemiol Glob Health. 2020;10(1):107-111.
S Pugazhenthi, F Tanha, B Dahl, RL Khandelwal. Decrease in protein tyrosine phosphatase activities in vanadate-treated obese Zucker (fa/fa) rat liver.Mol Cell Biochem. 1995;153(1-2):125-129.
D Massillon, W Chen, N Barzilai, et al. Carbon flux via the pentose phosphate pathway regulates the hepatic expression of the glucose-6-phosphatase and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase genes in conscious rats.J Biol Chem. 1998;273(1):228-234.
K Cusi, S Cukier, RA DeFronzo, M Torres, FM Puchulu, JC Redondo. Vanadyl sulfate improves hepatic and muscle insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;86(3):1410-1417.
Y Zhang, Q Zhang, C Feng, et al. Influence of vanadium on serum lipid and lipoprotein profiles: a population-based study among vanadium exposed workers.Lipids Health Dis. 2014;13:39.
J Wang, VG Yuen, JH McNeill. Effect of vanadium on insulin sensitivity and appetite. Metabolism. 2001;50(6):667-673.