Why is molybdenum an essential nutrient?

You may not have heard of molybdenum ore, but it is essential to your health.

Although your body only needs small amounts, it is a key component of many vital functions. Without it, sulphites and deadly toxins would accumulate in your body.

Molybdenum is widely available in the diet, but supplements are still popular. As with many supplements, high doses can be problematic.

This article covers everything you need to know about this little-known mineral.

What is molybdenum?

Molybdenum is an essential mineral in the body, just like iron and magnesium.

It is present in the soil and is transferred to its diet when it consumes plants, as well as to animals that feed on those plants.

There is very little data on the specific molybdenum content of certain foods, since it depends on the soil content.

Although the amounts vary, the richest sources are usually beans, lentils, grains and organ meats, particularly liver and kidney. The poorest sources include other animal products, fruits and many vegetables (1).

Studies have shown that your body does not absorb it well from certain foods, particularly soy products. However, this is not considered a problem since other foods are so rich in it (2).

Because your body only needs it in minimal amounts and is abundant in many foods, molybdenum deficiency is rare. For this reason, people do not usually need supplements, unless for some specific medical reason.

Summary: Molybdenum is found in many foods, such as legumes, grains and organ meats. Your body only requires it in minimal quantities, so the deficiency is extremely rare.

Acts as a cofactor for important enzymes

Molybdenum is vital to many processes in your body.

Once you eat it, it is absorbed into the blood from your stomach and guts, and then transported to your liver, kidneys and other areas.

Some of this mineral is stored in the liver and kidneys, but most of it becomes a molybdenum cofactor. Any excess molybdenum is passed to the urine (3).

The molybdenum cofactor activates four essential enzymes, which are biological molecules that drive chemical reactions in the body. Below are the four enzymes:

  • Sulfite oxidase: It converts sulphite into sulphate, preventing the dangerous accumulation of sulfites in the body (4).

  • Aldehyde oxidase: It decomposes aldehydes, which can be toxic to the body. In addition, it helps the liver to break down alcohol and some drugs, such as those used in cancer therapy (5, 6, 7).

  • Xanthine oxidase: It converts xanthine into uric acid. This reaction helps break down nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, when they are no longer needed. Then they can be excreted in the urine (8).

  • Reducing component of mitochondrial amidoxime (mARC): The function of this enzyme is not completely understood, but it is thought that it eliminates the toxic byproducts of metabolism (9).

The role of molybdenum in the decomposition of sulfites is especially important.

Sulfites are found naturally in foods and are also sometimes added as preservatives. If they accumulate in the body, they can trigger an allergic reaction that can include diarrhea, skin problems or even breathing difficulties (10).

Summary: Molybdenum acts as a cofactor for four enzymes. These enzymes are involved in the processing of sulfites and in the breakdown of waste products and toxins in the body.

Very few people are deficient

Although supplements are widely available, molybdenum deficiency is very rare in healthy people.

The estimated average daily intake of molybdenum in the USA. UU It is 76 micrograms per day for women and 109 micrograms per day for men.

This exceeds the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults, which is 45 micrograms per day (11).

Information on molybdenum intake in other countries varies, but is generally well above the requirements (11).

There have been some exceptional cases of molybdenum deficiency, which have been linked to adverse health conditions.

In one situation, a hospital patient received artificial nutrition through a tube and was not given any molybdenum. This resulted in severe symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat and breathing, vomiting, disorientation and, finally, coma (12).

Long-term molybdenum deficiency has been observed in some populations and has been linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

In a small region of China, esophageal cancer is 100 times more common than in the US UU It has been discovered that the soil in this area contains very low levels of molybdenum, which results in a long-term low dietary intake (13).

In addition, in other areas that have a high risk of esophageal cancer, such as parts of northern Iran and South Africa, it has been found that molybdenum levels in hair and nail samples are low (14, 15).

It is important to keep in mind that these are cases in individual populations, and deficiency is not a problem for most people.

Summary: In some cases, the low molybdenum content in the soil has been linked to esophageal cancer. However, given that the average daily molybdenum intake in the US UU Exceeds the recommended daily dose, the deficiency is extremely rare.

Molybdenum cofactor deficiency causes severe symptoms that appear in childhood

Molybdenum cofactor deficiency is a very rare genetic condition in which babies are born without the ability to produce molybdenum cofactor.

Therefore, they can not activate the four important enzymes mentioned above.

It is caused by a genetic recessive and hereditary mutation, so a child would have to inherit the affected gene from both parents to develop it.

Babies with this condition appear normal at birth, but they become ill within a week and experience seizures that do not improve with treatment.

The toxic levels of sulfite accumulate in your blood, since they can not convert it into sulfate. This leads to brain abnormalities and severe developmental delays.

Unfortunately, affected babies do not survive beyond early childhood.

Fortunately, this condition is extremely rare. Before 2010, only about 100 cases were reported worldwide (16, 17).

Summary: Molybdenum cofactor deficiency causes brain abnormalities, developmental delays and infant death. Fortunately, it is extremely rare.

Too much can cause serious side effects

As with most vitamins and minerals, there is no advantage in taking more than the recommended amount of molybdenum.

In fact, doing so can harm your health.

The tolerable upper intake level (UL) is the highest daily intake of a nutrient that is unlikely to cause harm to almost everyone. It is not recommended to overcome it regularly.

The UL for molybdenum is 2,000 micrograms (mcg) per day (18).

Molybdenum toxicity is rare and studies in humans are limited. However, in animals, very high levels have been associated with reduced growth, renal failure, infertility and diarrhea (19).

Rarely, molybdenum supplements have caused serious side effects in humans, even when doses were well within the UL.

In one case, a man consumed between 300 and 800 mcg per day for 18 days. He developed seizures, hallucinations and permanent brain damage (20).

The high intake of molybdenum has also been linked to a number of other conditions.

Symptoms similar to gout

Too much molybdenum can cause an accumulation of uric acid due to the action of the enzyme xanthine oxidase.

A group of Armenian people who each consumed between 10,000 and 15,000 mcg a day, which is 5 to 7 times UL, reported gout symptoms (19).

Gout occurs when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood, which causes small crystals to form around the joints, causing pain and swelling.

Poor bone health

Studies have shown that a high intake of molybdenum could cause a decrease in bone growth and bone mineral density (BMD).

Currently, there are no controlled studies in humans. However, an observational study of 1,496 people found interesting results.

He found that as molybdenum intake levels increased, the BMD of the lumbar spine appeared to decrease in women older than 50 years (21).

Controlled studies in animals have supported these findings.

In one study, the rats were fed high amounts of molybdenum. As their consumption increased, their bone growth decreased (22).

In a similar study in ducks, high intakes of molybdenum were associated with damage to the bones of their feet (23).

Decreased Fertility

Research has also shown an association between high molybdenum intake and reproductive difficulties.

An observational study that included 219 men recruited through fertility clinics showed a significant relationship between increased molybdenum in the blood and decreased sperm count and quality (24).

Another study also found that the increase in molybdenum in the blood was related to the decrease in testosterone levels. When combined with low levels of zinc, it was associated with a huge 37% reduction in testosterone levels (25).

The controlled studies in animals have also supported this link.

In rats, high intakes have been associated with decreased fertility, lack of growth of offspring and abnormal sperm (26, 27, 28).

Although the studies raise many questions, more research is needed.

Summary: In rare cases, high intakes of molybdenum have been linked to seizures and brain damage. Initial studies have also suggested an association with gout, poor bone health and decreased fertility.

Molybdenum can be used as a treatment for some diseases

In certain situations, molybdenum can help reduce copper levels in the body. This process is being investigated as a treatment for some chronic diseases.

It has been shown that excess molybdenum in the diet produces copper deficiency in ruminant animals, such as cows and sheep.

Due to the specific anatomy of ruminants, molybdenum and sulfur combine in them to form compounds called thiomolybdates. This prevents ruminants from absorbing copper.

This is not believed to be a nutritional concern for humans, since the human digestive system is different.

However, the same chemical reaction has been used to develop a compound called tetrathiomolybdate (TM).

TM has the ability to reduce copper levels and is being investigated as a possible treatment for Wilson's disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis (29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34).

Summary: It has been shown that the product of a chemical reaction between molybdenum and sulfur reduces copper levels and is being investigated as a treatment for chronic diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

How much do you need?

It is clear that both too much and too little molybdenum can be extremely problematic.

So, how much do you really need?

It is difficult to measure molybdenum in the body, since blood and urine levels do not necessarily reflect the state.

For this reason, data from controlled studies have been used to estimate the requirements.

Here are the RDAs for molybdenum for different populations (1):


  • 1-3 years: 17 mcg per day

  • 4-8 years: 22 mcg per day

  • 9-13 years: 34 mcg per day

  • 14-18 years: 43 mcg per day

The adults

All adults over 19 years old: 45 mcg per day.

Pregnant or lactating women

Pregnant or lactating women of any age: 50 mcg per day.

Summary: Controlled studies have been used to estimate the recommended daily doses of molybdenum for adults and children, as well as for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The bottom line

Molybdenum is an essential mineral found in high concentrations in legumes, grains and organ meats.

It activates enzymes that help break down harmful sulfites and prevent toxins from accumulating in the body.

Situations in which people obtain too little or too little of the mineral are extremely rare, but both have been linked to serious adverse effects.

Since molybdenum is found in many common foods, the average daily intake exceeds the requirements. For this reason, most people should avoid supplementing with it.

While eating a healthy diet with a variety of whole foods, molybdenum is not a nutrient you need to worry about.

Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/molybdenum


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