You are probably aware of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium which are essential for good health. But there are others which are not as well known. Molybdenum is one of these trace minerals.
What is molybdenum?
Molybdenum is an essential mineral micronutrient required by the body. It works as a cofactor in at least four enzymes, namely sulfite oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, xanthine oxidase and mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component. Studies show that these enzymes help to breakdown some toxic compounds, neutralizing them and allowing for their excretion. Therefore it is important in detoxifying the body. For instance, sulfite oxidase transforms sulfite produced from sulfur-containing amino acids like methionine and cysteine, to sulfate. While sulfite is unstable and reactive, and therefore toxic in the body, sulfate is stable and non-toxic.
Molybdenum is present in different quantities in many types of foods. However, legumes like beans and peas, lentils, grains, nuts, dark green vegetables and liver contain higher levels of the mineral. Foods highest in molybdenum include black soy, mung beans, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
How Much Do you Need?
The recommended daily allowance of molybdenum is as follows:
Ages 0 – 6 months 2 micrograms
Ages 7 – 12 months 3 micrograms
Ages 1 – 3 years 17 micrograms
Ages 4 – 8 years 22 micrograms
Ages 9 – 13 years 34 micrograms
Ages 14 – 18 years 43 micrograms
Age 19 years and older 45 micrograms
Pregnant and nursing women 50 micrograms (1)
It is quite easy to meet your daily molybdenum requirements from diet. However, in case of molybdenum deficiency, you may need to take a supplement.
Signs of Molybdenum Deficiency
Because molybdenum is only required in small amounts, and it is present in many types of food, its deficiency is quite rare. If it occurs, molybdenum deficiency is usually caused by genetic factors. In such a case, a molybdenum deficient person has low sulfite oxidase level. This means that the body of such a person may be unable to process amino acids containing sulfur which can lead to problems like brain damage, liver damage, heart damage and cancer. (2)
8 Health Benefits of Molybdenum
- Detoxifies the Body
Molybdenum helps to detoxify the body from alcohol and other drugs. Molybdenum is a cofactor in aldehyde oxidase, an enzyme which together with aldehyde dehydrogenase transforms the harmful byproduct of alcohol called acetaldehyde, into acetic acid. Additionally, aldehyde oxidase metabolizes other drugs including medications. (6)
These symptoms are worse in people who are molybdenum deficient because there is little of the mineral to produce enough sulfite oxidase.
- Improves Blood Circulation
Nitric oxide is an essential compound produced in the body for various functions including maintaining flexible blood vessels, supporting cell growth and maintaining a healthy blood circulatory system. If your body produces inadequate amounts of nitric oxide, you may develop circulatory issues like high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Molybdenum Protects Against Food Sensitivities
As a cofactor of sulfite oxidase, molybdenum transforms sulfites to sulfates. Sulfites are found in many foods especially processed foods including bottled drinks like soda, juices, wines and beer, sauerkraut, maple syrup, sausages and deli meats. A buildup of sulfites can lead to food sensitivities which may present with nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, wheezing, hives, shock and even loss of consciousness. Sulfite can trigger asthma in some people.
Increasing molybdenum intake can help alleviate sulfite sensitivity by boosting sulfite oxidase production. (3)
Molybdenum is a component of yet another enzyme called nitrate reductase whose roles include breaking down of nitrates to nitrogen oxide which is further processed to nitric oxide. (4)
- Fights Harmful Inflammation
While inflammation helps the body to fight disease, excess or chronic inflammation can lead to serious health problems including diseases like arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. Molybdenum, in the form of tetrathiomolybdate helps to lower copper levels in the body. This reduces fibrosis, which is the scarring and thickening of tissues due to chronic inflammation. By reducing this type of inflammation, molybdenum protects various tissues and organs like the liver and the heart from damage.
- Lowers the Risk of Cancer
Molybdenum can help reduce the risk of cancer, especially esophageal cancer. Molybdenum is thought to prevent production of cancer-causing agents. Studies in Northern China have found that esophageal cancer affects more people in populations living in low molybdenum soils. The foods grown in such soils are low in molybdenum. This means that because people in such places eat low molybdenum foods, they end up having low levels of molybdenum in their bodies, which leads to production of cancer-causing agents. Low molybdenum also increases the risk of rectal cancer. (5)
- Balances Uric Acid Levels
While gout may be the only thought that comes to your mind concerning to uric acid, the compound also has beneficial roles in the body. As a cofactor in xanthine oxidase, molybdenum supports production of healthy levels of uric acid. Uric acid acts as an antioxidant that neutralizes reactive oxygen species. It’s only when produced in excessive amounts that uric acid leads to gout in some people. Molybdenum deficiency leads to low levels of uric acid, leading to health problems like multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Similar problems can occur in case of xanthine oxidase dysfunction. (7)
- Prevents Premature Aging
Free radicals cause excessive oxidation within the body cells, tissues and organs. This can cause premature aging whose signs include wrinkles. Oxidation also interferes with proper cell function and may lead to cancer and other diseases. Because of its strong antioxidant properties, molybdenum can help prevent premature aging.
- Boosts Dental Health
Some studies associate tooth decay to molybdenum deficiency. While it is not clear how it works, increasing molybdenum intake can help reduce cavities. Studies suggest that molybdenum works together with fluoride to repair dental cavities and strengthen teeth.
While you only require small amounts of molybdenum in your body, this micronutrient is essential for health. For this reason, you need to include foods that contain molybdenum in your diet. Such foods include pulses, grains, dark green vegetables and meats. And if you think you could be molybdenum deficient, you can talk to a doctor or a nutritionist, who may advise that you take a molybdenum supplement.