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What is Molybdenum, Its Uses, Side Effects and Can Molybdenum Be Used for Treatment?

What is Molybdenum?

Molybdenum is an essential nutrient playing a critical role in human health. It is present in the soil and is transferred into the diet when plants are consumed or animals who feed on plants are consumed. Molybdenum’s richest sources are lentils, beans, grains, and organ meat.(1)

Molybdenum’s deficiency is rare as it is required by the body in small amounts and is present in abundance in plant foods.

Uses of Molybdenum

Molybdenum is stored in the body in the form of molybdopterin in the liver, kidney, adrenal glands, and bones.

Molybdopterin is needed by the body for the function of some enzymes and there are four essential enzyme pathways it is involved in.

  • Xanthine Oxidase: This is an enzyme that converts xanthine to uric acid and helps in breaking down nucleotides when the body no longer needs them.
  • Aldehyde Oxidase: These enzymes metabolize aldehydes that are organic compounds toxic at a certain level. They also help the liver in breaking down alcohol and some other drugs.
  • Sulfite Oxidase: This enzyme converts sulfite compounds to sulfates. Sulfites are present in foods naturally and are also added by the manufacturers as preservatives. Sulfite build-up can lead to allergic reactions.
  • Mitochondria Amidoxime Reducing Component (mARC): This helps in removing toxic byproducts of metabolism.

There is no evidence suggesting the need of supplementing molybdenum. It is believed that supplementing it may help with candida infection but there is no research to support it.

There is research that links the low level of molybdenum with cancer, but it is not sure whether or not supplementing it would help.(2)

Side Effects and Risks Associated with Molybdenum

Normal levels of molybdenum present in foods and drinks do not cause any harm.

High molybdenum intake is associated with numerous health conditions.

Gout-like Symptoms

Excess of molybdenum leads to uric acid build-up due to the action of the xanthine oxidase enzyme.

Gout occurs due to a high level of uric acid in the blood. A study reported people who consumed a large quantity of molybdenum reported gout-like symptoms.(3)

Poor Bone Health

A high intake of molybdenum could decrease bone growth and bone mineral density. An observational study on 1496 people found that increase in molybdenum caused a decrease in the bone mineral density in females over 50 years.(4)

A controlled study on rats supported the above study, when the rats were fed with high amounts of molybdenum their bone growth was found to decrease.(5)

Decreases Fertility

Research has linked high molybdenum intake with reproductive difficulties.

A study done on 219 men found a significant relationship between increased molybdenum intake and decreased sperm count and quality.(6)

Another study found a link between the high molybdenum level in blood and decreased testosterone levels.(7)

Can Molybdenum be Used for Treatment?

Molybdenum can be helpful in reducing copper levels in the body. Excess of molybdenum has been linked with copper deficiency in the body of ruminants such as cows and sheep. Molybdenum and sulfur combine to form thiomolybdates and this prevents ruminants from absorbing copper.

As the human digestive system is different, this cannot be a concern for them.

The same chemical reaction can lead to the production of tetrathiomolybdate, a compound that has the ability to reduce copper levels and is being researched to be used in the treatment of Wilson’s disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis.(8, 9)

Molybdenum is an essential mineral that is found in good concentrations in plants and plant-eating animals. It plays the role of breaking down sulfites and preventing toxin build-up. Both excess and lack of this mineral are linked with adverse effects. It is present in many common foods and as long as a person eats a healthy diet with a variety of whole foods, it is not a nutrient to be concerned about.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 23, 2022

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