Molybdenum

Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral that occurs naturally in foods and is available in supplements. It is a component of four different enzymes in the body that help break down proteins, alcohol, drugs, and toxins. Molybdenum-containing enzymes also break down purines and sulfites. Purines are compounds metabolized from food that form uric acid which, in elevated levels, is a risk factor for gout. Sulfites are a preservative added to certain foods to maintain color and shelf-life; some people develop a sensitivity to sulfites, causing an allergic reaction. Molybdenum is stored in the liver, kidneys, and bone. The kidneys are efficient at removing excess amounts in the body if not needed.

Recommended Amounts

RDA: The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adult men and women 19+ years is 45 micrograms daily. People 14+ years who are pregnant or lactating require 50 micrograms daily.

UL: The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects on health. The UL for molybdenum for adults 19+ years and those pregnant and lactating is 2,000 micrograms daily.

Molybdenum and Health

Research is not available on molybdenum as a treatment for specific diseases or health conditions in humans. [1]

Food Sources

Molybdenum is mostly found in legumes but is also available from whole grains and beef liver. [1] The amount found in food varies depending on how much is present in the soil and water in which the food was grown.

  • Legumes: black-eyed peas, lima beans, peanuts
  • Beef liver
  • Dairy: plain yogurt, milk
  • Potato with skin
  • Fortified whole-grain cereals
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Bananas

Signs of Deficiency and Toxicity

Deficiency

A molybdenum deficiency is extremely rare in the U.S. Rare cases have been reported in infants with a genetic disorder in which the mineral cannot be use and therefore cannot break down sulfites, which may lead to brain damage and seizures. A deficiency has also been seen in people receiving intravenous nutrition in which supplemental molybdenum was not added.

Signs of deficiency include:

  • Seizures, death in infants
  • Irregular heart rate in adults

Toxicity

Toxicity is rare in healthy individuals. It has been reported in people with occupations such as mining and metalwork that expose them to excess amounts of the mineral, or in areas of the world that have higher levels of molybdenum in the soil. Symptoms include achy joints, gout-like symptoms, and elevated levels of uric acid. [1] However, a toxicity from the diet is highly unusual as the kidneys are very efficient at excreting any excess amount.

Did You Know?

Although a handful of studies have associated very high intakes of molybdenum with elevated uric acid levels, copper deficiency, and infertility, subsequent research has not confirmed these findings, with negative effects seen more commonly in animal research than humans. [2]

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