Vanadium (V) is typically found at low levels in hair and the clinical significance of the measured result of lower than average hair V is not known. V is measured in hair for research purposes because it has been postulated to be an essential microtrace element. Indirect data to support this postulate have been derived from experimental models. Suggested functions for V include: regulation of sodium-potassium-ATPase, intracellular glutathione metabolism, thyroid metabolism, and insulin mimetic effects at pharmacological doses. Average dietary V intake varies considerably between 20 mcg to 2 mg. Food sources of V include: liver, fish, radishes, grains, nuts, and vegetable oils.
High levels of Vanadium (V) in hair may be indicative of excess absorption of the element. It is well established that excess V can have toxic effects in humans. Although it appears that V may have essential functions, over zealous supplementation is not warranted.
Excess levels of V in the body can result from chronic consumption of fish, shrimp, crabs, and oysters derived from water near offshore oil rigs (Metals in Clinical and Analytical Chemistry, 1994). Industrial/environmental sources of V include: processing of mineral ores, phosphate fertilizers, combustion of oil and coal, production of steel, and chemicals used in the fixation of dyes and print.
Symptoms of V toxicity vary with chemical form and route of absorption. Inhalation of excess V may produce respiratory irritation and bronchitis. Excess ingestion of V can result in decreased appetite, depressed growth, diarrhea/gastrointestinal disturbances, nephrotoxic and hematotoxic effects. Pallor, diarrhea, and green tongue are early signs of excess V and have been reported in human subjects consuming about 20 mg V/day (Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 8th edition, eds. Shils, M., Olson, J., and Mosha, S., 1994).
Confirmatory tests for excess V are red blood cell elements analysis, and urine V which reflects recent intake.
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