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What is Vanadyl Sulfate?

Vanadyl Sulfate is a stable complex of the elements Vanadium, Sulfur and Oxygen. Vanadium is classified as an ultratrace element and there is controversy over whether it is essential for humans in spite of a great deal of research into its effects over the past half century.

Where does Vanadyl Sulfate come from?

Vanadium, from which Vanadyl Sulfate is made, is an element which occurs naturally in the earth in small quantities, usually found complexed with other elements as a mineral. It is also present in seawater and crude oil (1).

Benefits of Vanadyl Sulfate

Vanadyl Sulfate is known for its insulin-like effects, and has long been used in the experimental treatment of diabetes, although these days, more stable, bioavailable vanadium compounds are now being tested with a view to developing new diabetes treatments (2). Vanadium compounds, including Vanadyl Sulfate, increase the uptake of sugars into cells in a number of different ways.Vanadyl Sulfate can block the enzyme that causes cells to become insulin resistant, meaning that cells receive the signal to take up glucose from the bloodstream for longer and absorb more sugar (3). It can also stimulate one of the proteins responsible for uptake of glucose by muscle cells, where the glucose is then converted to glycogen for storage (4). There is a small amount of evidence that some Vanadium compounds possess anti-cancer properties. This is an area of ongoing research (2).

Benefits of Vanadyl Sulfate for bodybuilding

Vanadyl Sulfate has become a very popular bodybuilding supplement because of its effect on the storage of glycogen. While large glycogen reserves are something more beneficial to an endurance athlete, glycogen is stored with water, and if it is stored in large amounts, swells the cells it is stored in. Vanadyl Sulfate is revered in bodybuilding for making muscles appear larger, denser, and more pumped. Improved sugar uptake may also aid the muscles in recovery. Insulin is a potent growth factor. By increasing the effect of insulin on the body, Vanadyl Sulfate may possess catabolic effects.

Safety, Negatives and Side Effects of Vanadyl Sulfate

Although Vanadyl Sulfate has shown a lot of promise in improving outcomes for diabetic patients, there has not been any evidence to show that supplementation has any peformance benefits in non-diabetic athletes (5). Much of the information on Vanadyl Sulfate's benefits is anecdotal. There has been some concern that vanadium competes with iron for uptake – some studies have shown a drop in iron levels and number of red blood cells as a result of Vanadyl Sulfate supplementation, and others have seen no change (6). Some studies in animals have shown changes in the shape of red blood cells and the metabolism of fat (2), but none of these effects have been properly investigated in humans.Whilst some studies performed in animals have shown Vanadium compounds to possess anti-cancer properties, others have shown Vanadium encouraging the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. This has so far only been studied in animals, but it is an area of potential concern. Vanadyl Sulfate supplementation at higher levels (over 12mg a day) can cause digestive problems such as stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhoea. Over long periods of time, it can accumulate in the body and produce bizarre side effects such as turning the tongue green (7).

Vanadyl Sulfate Recommended Doses & Ingredient Timing

There is a lot of controversy over what constitutes a therapeutic dose of Vanadyl Sulfate. Some manufacturers recommend 0.5-1mg/day, whereas other formulations contain as much as 50-100mg per dose. It is most commonly taken before a workout, but sometimes taken afterward.

Vanadyl Sulfate Supplements

Vanadyl Sulfate can be found in a number of pre-workout supplements, such as MRI Black Powder Ultra and post workouts such as MusclePharm Recon.

Stacking Vanadyl Sulfate

To take advantage of the effects Vanadyl Sulfate has on glucose uptake, it should be taken alongside a good source of simple carbs. Creatine goes well in this stack too, because glucose and insulin encourage its uptake.

(1) ATSDR Public Health Statement for Vanadium, USA. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=274&tid=50 Accessed 14/11/2013.
(2) Jan Korbecki, Irena Baranowska-Bosiacka, Izabela Gutowska and Dariusz Chlubek. Biochemical and medical importance of vanadium compounds. ABP Vol. 59, No 2/2012 195–200/
(3) Scior T, Guevara-García JA, Melendez FJ, Abdallah HH, Do QT, Bernard P. Chimeric design, synthesis, and biological assays of a new nonpeptide insulin-mimetic vanadium compound to inhibit protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2010;4:415.
(4) Vardatsikos G, Mehdi MZ, Srivastava AK. Bis(maltolato)-oxovanadium (IV)-induced phosphorylation of PKB, GSK-3 and FOXO1 contributes to its glucoregulatory responses (review). Int J Mol Med. 2009 Sep;24(3):303-9. Review.
(5) Goldfine AB, Patti ME, Zuberi L, Goldstein BJ, LeBlanc R, Landaker EJ, Jiang ZY, Willsky GR, Kahn CR. Metabolic effects of vanadyl sulfate in humans with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: in vivo and in vitro studies. Metabolism. 2000 Mar;49(3):400-10.
(6) Fawcett JP, Farquhar SJ, Thou T, Shand BI. Oral vanadyl sulphate does not affect blood cells, viscosity or biochemistry in humans. Pharmacol Toxicol. 1997 Apr;80(4):202-6.
(7) Peterson T. Vanadyl Sulfate – could it be a wonder drug for the future? http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/vanadylsulfate.html Accessed 18th November 2013
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