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Molybdenum: The Little-Known Element Your Body Depends On

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Molybdenum - Dr. Axe

Even though molybdenum is in all of our bodies right now, it’s not a super well-known substance. Yet it’s actually very important to human health.

Why is molybdenum important to life?

For starters, it helps ensure proper function of certain enzyme-dependent processes, including the metabolism of iron, which is a vital nutrient that helps move oxygen throughout the body. It also helps the body detoxify numerous harmful substances.

It’s not hard to obtain molybdenum health benefits by eating healthy foods like lentils and lima beans. The amount of molybdenum in food sources that come from the ground (plant sources) is determined by the content of it in the soil in which the food was grown.

Another one of the many interesting molybdenum facts is that in addition to its presence in soil, it can be found in water to varying degrees. It’s also the 54th most common element in the Earth’s crust.

Supplementation with this element is rarely required. However, obtaining this trace mineral through your diet is very important to many vital functions of the body.

Are you eating foods regularly that contain this important micronutrient? Let’s find out, but first more about what exactly it is.

What Is Molybdenum?

If you’re looking for the molybdenum periodic table location, it’s element 42, and the molybdenum symbol is Mo.

What is it? A simple molybdenum definition is a chemical element in nature as well as trace mineral required for human, animal and plant health. It is considered to be a metallic element.

What does molybdenum look like?

In its pure form, the molybdenum element is a silvery-white metal.

What are some molybdenum properties?

It has an extremely high melting point, and it’s very resistant to corrosion. This element does not naturally occur as a free metal on Earth, but it can be found in various oxidation states in minerals.

This trace mineral can be widely found in nature in nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the Earth’s crust, soil and water.

Why do you need molybdenum?

It’s considered an essential trace mineral because it’s required in trace amounts for human, animal and plant health to carry out many important life-providing functions.

What is molybdenum used for in the human body?

The body uses it to break down macronutrients, carry out vital enzyme-related processes, metabolize iron as well as prevent the accumulation of harmful substances. It is specifically known to function as a cofactor for four important enzymes, including sulfite oxidase, xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase and mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC).

Where is molybdenum found?

In the human body, it’s mainly located in the liver, kidneys, glands and bones. It can also be found in the skin, muscles, lungs and spleen.

Types

There are many forms of this trace mineral, but supplements typically contain one of the following types:

  • Ammonium molybdate
  • Molybdenum aspartate
  • Molybdenum citrate
  • Molybdenum glycinate
  • Molybdenum picolinate
  • Sodium molybdate

Molybdenum Uses

What is molybdenum used for?

Currently, there isn’t enough research to justify supplementing with this trace mineral. However, some people believe that supplementing with it for candida may be helpful.

It’s believed that this element may be beneficial for some of the following conditions, but there is limited evidence to date to evaluate the effectiveness of supplementing with it for these health concerns:

  • Esophageal cancer — low levels of this mineral may be linked to increased risk of esophageal cancer, but it’s not known if taking supplements decreases risk
  • Liver disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Yeast infections/candida
  • Sulfite sensitivity
  • Allergies and chemical sensitivities
  • Asthma
  • Lyme disease
  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • Insomnia
  • Anemia
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Wilson’s disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cavities

There are also some common non-health-related uses of this element.

What is molybdenum used for in everyday life?

It’s used to create molybdenum grease (a multipurpose lubricant for general industrial applications) as well as molybdenum steel (a material employed by the oil and gas, energy, construction and automotive industries for its strength, resistance to corrosion and high-temperature tolerance). Forms used for industrial purposes include molybdenum oxide, molybdenum trioxide, molybdenum hexacarbonyl and molybdenum sulfide.

In addition, molybdenum powder is used as a plant fertilizer.

Molybdenum Foods

Foods high in molybdenum include legumes, nuts, dairy products, cereal grains and leafy green vegetables.

If you’re really looking to up your molybdenum nutrition, legumes, such as beans, lentils and peas, are some of the richest sources. Fruit is generally low in it.

Top Food Sources:

  • Lentils
  • Dried Peas
  • Lima Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Black Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Oats
  • Tomatoes
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Barley
  • Eggs
  • Carrots
  • Bell Peppers
  • Fennel
  • Yogurt
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cod

Deficiency and Symptoms

What causes molybdenum deficiency?

It’s rare to have such a deficiency, but if one does occur it’s typically acquired or inherited.

A dietary deficiency in this mineral has never been observed in healthy people. However, patients with a genetic and severe metabolic defect called molybdenum cofactor deficiency have been identified before.

This rare disease results in a deficiency of three molybdoenzymes (sulfite oxidase, xanthine dehydrogenase and aldehyde oxidase). An infant born with this cofactor deficiency who survives may have severe neurological abnormalities and a variety of other abnormalities.

If a deficiency does occur it can be an acquired deficiency. It was seen in one patient in the 1980s who had Crohn’s disease and was on long-term intravenous administration of nutrition without added levels of this mineral.

For this patient, molybdenum deficiency symptoms included rapid heart and respiratory rates, headaches, and night blindness. The patient improved when the intravenous nutritions was stopped and replaced with molybdenum supplementation in the form of ammonium molybdate.

A deficiency in this element is considered extremely rare, which is why supplementation is not typically warranted or recommended.

Side Effects of Too Much

What happens when you have too much molybdenum?

Very high levels (such as 10 to 15 milligrams per day) in the diet and industrial exposure to this trace mineral is known to cause gout. Supplements may also exacerbate gout that already exists.

Molybdenum supplements can also potentially cause a copper deficiency because this trace mineral reduces copper from bodily tissues.

In general, adults should not take more than two milligrams per day.

How Much Do You Need?

The tolerable upper intake level for this trace mineral by age group is listed below:

  • Infants 0–12 months: not possible to establish, but the source of intake should be from food and formula only
  • Children 1–3 years: 300 micrograms per day
  • Children 4–8 years: 600 micrograms per day
  • Children 9–13 years: 1,100 micrograms per day (1.1 milligrams per day)
  • Adolescents 14–18 years: 1,700 micrograms per day (1.7 milligrams per day)
  • Adults 19 years and older: 2,000 micrograms per day (2.0 milligrams per day)

For most people, a molybdenum supplement is not necessary because it’s not hard to get ample amounts through diet alone. Plus, deficiencies are extremely rare.

However, if for some reason you do choose to supplement with this trace mineral, it’s generally considered safe to be taken by mouth by adults in amounts that do not exceed two milligrams per day. Taking high doses (greater than two milligrams each day) is likely unsafe.

How much does molybdenum cost?

Price can vary, but it’s not hard to find supplements for under $15 for 90–100 capsules or tablets.

Precautions

In terms of possible drug interactions, high doses have been found to inhibit the metabolism of acetaminophen in rats so taking acetaminophen along with this element is not recommended.

People who have a dietary copper deficiency or have a copper metabolism dysfunction that causes them to become copper-deficient may be at increased risk of developing molybdenum toxicity.

You should not take supplements of this trace mineral if you have gallstones or kidney problems.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or currently take medication, always speak with your health care provider before taking any new supplements.

Final Thoughts

  • Uses by the human body of this element include the breakdown of macronutrients, enzyme-dependent processes, metabolism of iron and detoxification from harmful substances.
  • Molybdenum benefits may include the prevention or improvement of some health concerns, but there has been limited research to date to clearly support the need for supplementation, especially when deficiency is so rare.
  • One example of a condition it may help is esophageal cancer because studies have revealed that a deficiency in it may play a role in the higher incidence of esophageal cancer in populations consuming food grown in soil low in this mineral.
  • Healthy foods that supply this element include lentils, dried peas, black beans, oats and romaine lettuce.
  • It’s best and safest to obtain this trace mineral through your diet, especially since a deficiency is extremely rare.
  • Excess amounts of this trace mineral via supplements (or industrial exposure) can cause gout and/or a copper deficiency.

Read Next: Top 6 Histidine Benefits & How to Use It (+ Foods, Supplements & More)


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