Molybdenum: An Essential Trace Mineral - What is Molybdenum and What Does it Do?

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What is Molybdenum?

Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral necessary in very small amounts. Its name is derived from the Greek word molybdos, which means lead. Molybdenum is found mainly in the adrenal glands, bones, kidneys and liver, as well as in tooth enamel.

What does Molybdenum Do?

In the body, molybdenum plays an important role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. It aids in the prevention of anemia, and it is involved in iron usage by moving iron out of the liver where it is stored.

Molybdenum is a necessary cofactor for three different metabolic enzymes in the body:

  • Sulfite oxidase, which catalyzes the reaction that changes sulfite to sulfate, is involved in the metabolism of the sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine.
  • The enzyme xanthine oxidase acts to break down purines and pyrimidines (DNA and RNA precursors) into uric acid, which is a potent antioxidant, and contributes to greater than fifty percent of the antioxidant activity in blood plasma.
  • The enzyme aldehyde oxidase is also involved in the metabolism of purines and pyrimidines, as well as nicotinic acid (niacin or vitamin B3). Along with xanthine oxidase, its activity is important in the metabolism of drugs and toxins.

Getting Enough Molybdenum in your Diet

The Recommended Daily Amount for molybdenum is 45 micrograms. The average daily intake for adults eating a normal balanced diet is estimated to be between 75 and 240 micrograms per day, which should be an ample amount to satisfy the RDA.

Good sources of molybdenum are dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, barley, buckwheat, wheat germ, various types of beans including lima beans, white beans and green beans, yellow split peas, green peas, eggs, lentils, sunflower seeds, and organ meats such as liver and kidneys.

There are few records of molybdenum deficiency in humans, since the required amount is so low. However, the amount of molybdenum in vegetable sources varies according to how much is present in the soil where the plants are grown, so those living in geographical areas with very little molybdenum present in the soil may be at risk for molybdenum deficiency. In certain areas in northern China where molybdenum levels in the soil are very low, the incidence of stomach and esophageal cancer has been found to be substantially increased, indicating that this may be related to molybdenum deficiency.

Toxicity from excessive ingestion of molybdenum has not been documented in humans, but there is some evidence that ingesting high amounts of molybdenum can interfere with copper metabolism and may possibly lead to a copper deficiency.

Ingesting amounts greater than 10-15 mg/day can cause symptoms of gout, and animal studies have shown that ingesting more than 10 mg/day can cause symptoms of diarrhea, low birth weight and retardation of growth.

Always consult a health care professional before taking any supplements.