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Molybdenum Deficiency

Molybdenum Deficiency

Molybdenum Deficiency : Molybdenum, probably this is the most important element that no one has enough knowledge about it. Too much and too less, both can kill you! How? This article will provide your answer.

It is a trace element of our body. Although our body needs less amount of it, it is a key component of many vital functions in our body. Dangerous sulfites and toxins would build up in our body without this. From this, we can imagine how crucial this element is for maintaining a healthy life.

Molybdenum is found in foods such as milk, cheese, cereal grains, legumes, nuts, leafy vegetables as well as organ meats. The amount of molybdenum in plant-based foods depends upon the soil content in the growing area. It is also present in water but in varying amounts. It is stored in the liver, kidneys, glands, bones, lungs, spleen, skin as well as muscles. But most of the molybdenum about 90% is eliminated by the body through urine. Although it is widely available in the diet, bit its supplements are more popular.

It forms an important part of a little enzyme called as sulfite oxidase. The enzymes break down the incoming sulfites and convert them into a healthy food. If we take away molybdenum, then the condition of these enzymes goes nasty. A severe allergic reaction will occur. Continuous molybdenum deficiency creates uric acid to build up in the blood, which brings on dangerously inflamed and painful joints. At last, its deficiency takes out the nervous system also.

Can you avoid sulfites from your food? Although the FDA made it illegal to add sulfites to fruits and vegetables, each and every food contain some sulfites. Preserved foods, restaurant foods and almost all thing you can find in the grocery shop, all contain sulfites. Wine and beer both contain natural sulfites. So, all these foods are killing you slowly. Again, sulfur content is also its partner. Extra molybdenum has high affinity towards sulfur that it will combine with four sulfur atoms and form tetrathiomolybdate. Tetrathiomolybdate will hold all nearby copper, making it harmful for the body.

 It Acts as a Co factor for essential Enzymes

Molybdenum is important for many functions in your body. After eating, it is absorbed into your blood and from your stomach and gut, it carried to your liver, kidneys and other parts of your body.

Some portion of this is stored in the liver and kidneys, but most part of it is transformed into a molybdenum cofactor. The excess molybdenum passed through urine.

The molybdenum cofactor helps to activate four essential enzymes, which are generally biological molecules that make some chemical reactions in the body. Below are the main four enzymes:

  • Sulfite oxidase: Transforms sulfite to sulfate, avoiding the dangerous buildup of sulfites in the body.
  • Aldehyde oxidase: helps to Break down aldehydes, which is a toxic substance and may dangerous to the body. It also helps the liver break down alcohol and some drugs, such as those utilized in cancer therapy.
  • Xanthine oxidase: Transforms xanthine to uric acid. This reaction breaks down nucleotides, which is the building blocks of DNA. When they don’t require any more, can be excreted through the urine.
  • Mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC): The functions of this enzyme aren’t fully understood, but it may be helpful to remove toxic byproducts of metabolism.

 Breaking down sulfites is especially important role of molybdenum.

Sulfites are available in foods naturally and can be added as a preservative sometimes. In case they build up in the body, they can generate an allergic reaction that can include diarrhea, skin problems or even breathing problems.

Some People get Deficient

Molybdenum deficiency is very rare to find in healthy people. The average intake varies in different countries. In the US the estimated average daily intake is 76 mcg/day for women and 109 mcg/day for men. This quantity exceeds the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults which are nearly 45 mcg/day.

From a study, it was found that in a hospital if a patient was taking artificial nutrition and not given any molybdenum. This resulted in fast heart rate and breathing, vomiting, disorientation and at the last come into coma stage.

Long-term molybdenum deficiency can lead to esophageal cancer. In one small area of China, esophageal cancer is a general health problem than the US. Because of the low level of molybdenum contents in the soil of this area, resulting in a long-term low dietary intake.

 Other regions such as parts of northern Iran and South Africa, people living in these areas have a high risk of esophageal cancer because molybdenum levels in hair and nail samples have been found to be very low.

Molybdenum Cofactor Deficiency leads to Severe Symptoms That Appear in Infancy

Molybdenum cofactor deficiency is a very rare genetic problem in which babies are born without the capability to make molybdenum cofactor. And because of this deficiency, they are unable to activate the four important enzymes mentioned above.

Its deficiency can be generated by a recessive, hereditary gene mutation so that an infant can inherit the affected gene from both parents to develop it.

At birth, those babies having this condition appear normal, but after some week, they become ill, experience seizures that don’t improve in any treatment.

Since they are unable to transform sulfite to sulfate, toxic substances of sulfites get mixed with their blood and this leads to brain abnormalities and severe developmental delays. Unfortunately, babies who are affected can’t survive for long period. But luckily, this condition is extremely rare.

Too Much Can Create Serious Side Effects

Just like other vitamins and minerals, there is no advantage to taking more than the recommended amount of molybdenum.  Yet, it can harm your health.

The recommended upper limit (UL) is the highest daily intake of a nutrient that doesn’t cause any harm for most of the people. It is not good to regularly exceed it.

The upper limit for molybdenum is about 2,000 micrograms (mcg) per day. Molybdenum toxicity is rare to find in humans. But in the case of animals, very high levels have been connected to reduced growth, kidney failure, infertility, and diarrhea.

It is very rare to find that molybdenum supplements have created serious side effects in humans, even the doses were under the upper limit.

In one study, a man consumed 300–800 mcg/ day for more than 18 days. He affected seizures, hallucinations and permanent brain damage.

High level of molybdenum intake has also been linked to several other severe health conditions.

Other Symptoms

Excessive molybdenum can create uric acid because of the action of xanthine oxidase enzyme.

From a study, it was shown that a group of Armenian people who consumed 10,000–15,000 mcg/day, which is 5 to 7 times greater than the upper limit found gout-like symptoms.

Generally, gout occurs when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood, which causes small crystals like structures to form around the joints, leading to pain and swelling.

Poor Bone Health

Researchers have confirmed that a high intake of molybdenum decreased bone growth and bone mineral density (BMD).

As per now, there are no entire studies in humans. However, an observational study of 1,496 individuals found interesting results.

It was found that if intake of molybdenum levels increased, lumbar spine bone density became reduced in women over the age of 50.

Controlled studies in animals have found these things.

In one of the studies, rats were fed large amounts of molybdenum. As their intake increased, their bone growth became decrease.

In a similar study had taken for ducks, high intakes of molybdenum damage their foot bones.

Decreased Fertility

High intake of molybdenum can create reproductive difficulties. In an observational study 219 men had taken from fertility clinics. From this study, it was showed a significant relationship between increased molybdenum in the blood and decreased sperm count and quality.

Another study also found that increased molybdenum contents in the blood were associated with decreased testosterone levels. When it combined with low zinc levels, there is a reduction of 37% in testosterone levels.

Controlled studies in animals have also supported this study.

In rats, high intakes lead to decreased fertility, growth failure of offspring and abnormalities in sperm generation.

Molybdenum Can Be Used as a medication for Some Diseases

Molybdenum decreases the level of copper in the body sometimes. This procedure can be utilized as a treatment for some chronic diseases.

In some animals such as cows and sheep, excess molybdenum leads to the copper deficiency in their body.

 In certain ruminants, molybdenum combines with sulfur and produce a compound called as thiomolybdates. These compounds prevent them from absorbing copper.

But it is different in the case of the human because the digestive system of a human is different. However, the same chemical reaction used to produce another compound called tetrathiomolybdate (TM).

TM can reduce copper levels and is being found as a potential treatment for Wilson’s disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis

 How Much Do You Need?

We know from the previous discussion that too much and too little, both can be dangerous for our body. In this concern, now it comes to our mind that how much we actually need?

Since blood and urine levels don’t reflect status, it is very difficult to measure molybdenum in the body. So, to know the requirements certain controlled studies had done.

According to those studies here are the RDAs for molybdenum for different populations:


  • 1–3 years: 17 mcg/ day
  • 4–8 years: 22 mcg/ day
  • 9–13 years: 34 mcg/ day
  • 14–18 years: 43 mcg/ day


All adults over 19 years old require 45 mcg/ day.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women

Pregnant or breastfeeding women of any age require 50 mcg/day.

The final quote

From all these discussions we come to know that how vital molybdenum is for our healthy body and life. It is available in high concentrations in legumes, grains and organ meats.

It helps to activate certain enzymes, which break down harmful sulphites and work against the toxins present in our body.

People having deficiency or sufficiency of molybdenum are extremely rare because we can get it from our regular diet. So, many people should avoid supplementing with it. But in case there would something mismatch with their quantity in our body, then it has been linked to serious adverse effect.

As long as you are eating a healthy diet with a variety of foods, then the deficiency or sufficiency of molybdenum not to be concerned about.

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