Too Much Vanadium



We have discussed the damaging effects of the high phosphorus-to-calcium ratios of flesh foods, both the “red” (beef, pork, lamb) and the “white” (fish and poultry).  Many nutritionists, however, are urging us to switch from the red meats to the white; in my view, this not only fails to solve the problems of excessive phosphorus but adds some new ones——the addition of trace minerals such as vanadium, arsenic, and methylmercury to our diets, with bad effects on vision and general health.                

Food sources of vanadium

Americans do not eat sea cucumbers and sea anemones directly.  But we do eat fish that eat these little creatures Sea cucumbers and sea anemones are among a host of “green-blooded” undersea creatures that use vanadium instead of iron in a molecule that structurally calls to mind hemoglobin.  Similarly, dulse, kelp, and all seaweeds are high in vanadium, nd so, in general, is seafood——especially shellfish, such as lobster, crabs, and scallops, and finfish from the seas, such as cod and flounder, but apparently not sardines. 

Although it is interesting to note some religious taboos against the eating of shellfish, occasional eating of unpolluted shellfish and unpolluted small fish from the sea does not appear to pose a problem except in persons already overloaded with vanadium.  The problem comes in the fact that too many persons, accustomed to eating too much beef have switched to eating too much seafood on a frequent basis.  And their digestive systems have become inefficient at handling all this flesh protein.

 Too much protein——or anything——is too much! 

Problems with chicken

In the spring of 1982 I discovered that patients who ate many servings of chicken per week had elevated vanadium concentrations in their hair.  Subsequent investigations traced this to the chicken feed.  Vanadium in chicken feed?  Why?

The New England College Conference formulas, for many years the base for the food industry in the eastern U.S., call for 50 pounds of fishmeal per ton as starter rations for broilers and 60 pounds fishmeal per ton as breeder rations, but no fishmeal for layers in egg production.  In recent years, the high cost of fishmeal has lead to a reduction in the recommended quota but the problem remains: seafood is not a natural forage for chicken.  Can we imagine a chick diving into the ocean, retrieving a fish, flying it ashore and gobbling it down through its minuscule beak?  No way!  Not only is fishmeal not natural forage for chicks, but they also apparently have poor defense mechanisms against accepting excessive vanadium from high-vanadium fish. 

Today, a lot of chicks no longer get much fishmeal in their diets.  But they are given a phosphorus supplement to help promote growth.  Most of the U.S. supplemental dietary phosphorus is mined from fossil beds once the bottom of a prehistoric sea.  You guessed it——this prehistoric marine phosphorus is loaded with vanadium.  Commercial chickens not only get supplemented with arsenic to counter coccidiosis, but also inadvertently are sold with much more vanadium than can be found in free-running chickens raised on corn meal and pickings.

It is interesting how agribusiness’s mass-produced chicken may be surpassing all other flesh proteins in contributing to undesirable effects on vision in those persons who allow it to become their major source of protein. 

In a moment, we shall look at some of the visual consequences of a high intake of vanadium that depresses the chromium-to-vanadium ratio in our body tissues.   

We need to note that most Americans are not overeating the fairly innocuous small fishes, such as sardines and herring——fish which are rich in protective selenium, but unfortunately are usually only available over processed, double-dead in cans of pickled format.  Most Americans are eating too much large fish——especially tuna.

Some people are misguidedly eating extra tuna and bluefish in a quest for EPA (eicosa-pentaenoic acid), not realizing that this potentially beneficial fatty acid is principally found in small, cold-water fish, and only in lesser concentrations in warmer-water fish such as tuna and swordfish.  Tuna and swordfish may grow quite huge and with months and years of carnivorous feeding have concentrated enough methylmercury and vanadium in their tissues to cause adverse effects to the eye in humans. 

Let’s return to the subject of vanadium and the chromium-to-vanadium ratio. 

In 1980 I discovered that kids ages eight to seventeen who have less than 100 parts per billion of chromium in nape-of-neck hair (as measured under meticulous precautions to assure accuracy), have virtually lost their reserve ability for focusing their eyes at a close distance such as 16 inches (=40 cm).  This means they can focus their eyes briefly at 16 inches, but cannot sustain close-work focusing for many minutes, and they cannot focus clearly on fine details if brought much closer than 16 inches if they otherwise have excellent distance vision and wear no special reading glasses.

    This effect probably occurs because chromium’s principal function appears to be to potentiate insulin receptors, facilitating blood sugar (glucose) uptake, especially by muscles.  And what muscles do we use more today than ever before?  Obviously, the focusing (ciliary) muscles of the eyes.  So it is not surprising that the first measurements of tissue-chromium deficiency associated with muscle disability have come in the measurement of vision function and in the effect of glucose-tolerance-factor chromium in marathon runners. 

Vanadium is the principal antagonist to chromium, competing with it for uptake in the gut.  It can occupy sites at insulin receptors, but without potentiating the receptors the way chromium would, and preventing chromium from doing so.  Vanadium can also directly inhibit oxidative phosphorylation, one of the biochemical processes by which glucose is converted to energy.

“In the Vanguard of Dietary Research and Integrative Therapy in the Prevention and Reversal of Eye and Vision Disorders”

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