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Molybdenum is an essential metal in the body, like iron and magnesium. It is also found in the soil and is transferred to our diet by eating vegetables and through animals that feed on these plants. Although our bodies only need a minimal amount, it is an essential component of many vital functions and without it, clots and toxins form.

Although it is not as well known as the other minerals we have mentioned, molybdenum is a key mineral nutrient found in a variety of foods and is known to play an important role in human health.

It is also essential in soil and ocean chemistry, and the molybdenum content of our food depends significantly on the soil in which the food is grown and the water it absorbs as it grows.

There is little data on the specific molybdenum content of certain foods, as it depends on the soil content.

Bohr model of molybdenum. Source: Signal Garden

Although amounts vary, the richest sources are usually beans, lentils, liver and animal kidneys, while smaller amounts are found in other animal products, fruits and many vegetables.

Since our bodies only need trace amounts and it is abundant in many foods, its deficiency is rare.

Read Also: Manganese Health Benefits, Sources, Deficiency, RDA

Molybdenum Food Sources

Molybdenum is absorbed from the soil by plants – mainly in soils characterized by alkaline or neutral pH.

It is then taken up by humans through the food chain. Water contains very little molybdenum, except in areas close to certain mines.

The main sources of molybdenum are milk, dairy products, dried beans, lentils, lentils, peas, whole grains (especially germ), liver and kidneys.

Fruits and vegetables contain small amounts. Molybdenum is also marketed in mineral supplements but, as with other supplements, high dosage can have side effects.

The trace element is absorbed from foods at a rate of 40-100%. From some foods (e.g soy) it is not well absorbed.

It is then carried through the blood loosely bound to red cells. It is found bound mainly by A2-macroglobulin (one of the largest proteins in the blood that carries hormones and enzymes).

(mcg) per
Black-eyed peas, boiled, ½ cup288640
Beef, liver, pan fried (3 ounces)104231
Lima beans, boiled, ½ cup104231
Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup2658
Milk, 2% milkfat, 1 cup2249
Potato, baked, flesh and skin, 1 medium1636
Cheerios cereal, ½ cup1533
Shredded wheat cereal, ½ cup1533
Banana, medium1533
White rice, long grain, cooked, ½ cup1329
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice1227
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce1124
Chicken, light meat, roasted, 3 ounces920
Egg, large, soft-boiled920
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup818
Beef, ground, regular, pan-fried, 3 ounces818
Pecans, dry roasted, 1 ounce818
Corn, sweet yellow, cooked, ½ cup613
Cheese, cheddar, sharp,1 ounce613
Tuna, light, canned in oil, 3 ounces511
Potato, boiled without skin, ½ cup49
Orange, medium49
Green beans, boiled, ½ cup37
Carrots, raw, ½ cup24
Asparagus, boiled, ½ cup24

Molybdenum Properties

Some of the mineral is transported primarily to the liver and kidneys, and secondarily to the bones and skin. But most of it is converted into enzyme co-factors.

Any excess molybdenum is excreted through the urine and bile.

The mineral acts as an essential enzyme cofactor. In particular, it activates four important enzymes:

  • Aldehyde oxidase: It dissolves aldehydes which can be toxic to the body. It also helps the liver to break down alcohol and some drugs, such as those used in cancer treatments.
  • Xanthine oxidase/deoxygenase: Converts xanthine to uric acid.
  • Sulphate oxidase: Prevents the dangerous build-up of sulphites in the body. The role of molybdenum in the breakdown of sulphites is particularly important. Sulphates occur naturally in foods and are also sometimes added as preservatives. If they accumulate in the body, they can cause an allergic reaction that may include diarrhoea, skin problems or breathing difficulties.
  • Mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC): the function of this enzyme is not fully understood, but it is thought to remove toxic by-products of metabolism.
Molybdenum element properties
– Molybdenum properties

Molybdenum Deficiency

Although it is clear that molybdenum is essential for the body, it is difficult to induce symptoms of deficiency in both humans and animals.

This is because it is needed in small quantities. In animal experiments in which large amounts of molybdenum’s antagonist, tungsten, were given, symptoms of deficiency included

  • suppression of food consumption,
  • reduction in reproductive capacity
  • increased copper concentrations in the liver and brain.

Long-term molybdenum deficiency has been observed in some populations and has been associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

In some regions of China, esophageal cancer is 100 times more common than in the United States. The soil in this area was found to contain very low levels of molybdenum (source, source).

Recommended Daily Intake

Adult requirements for molybdenum have been estimated at 45 μg (micrograms) per day (source). Average intakes tend to be significantly higher than this value. Recommendations for dietary intake are:

  • 1-3 years: 17 μg per day
  • 4-8 years: 22 μg per day
  • 9-13 years: 34 μg per day
  • 14-18 years: 43 μg per day
  • All adults over 19 years: 45 μg per day.
  • Women pregnant or breastfeeding at any age: 50 μg per day.

The average daily intake of molybdenum in the US is 76 micrograms for women and 109 micrograms for men. Estimating molybdenum levels in the body is difficult.

Read Also: Copper (Cu) Health Benefits, Sources, Deficiency, RDA, Toxicity

Molybdenum Side Effects

In 2001, the US Food and Nutrition Board set the maximum tolerable limits for molybdenum at 2,000 μg (2 mg) per day for adults (19 years and older). The basis for setting the upper limits was the negative effect on reproductive capacity in animals.

Molybdenum is relatively non-toxic. High intakes (10-15 mg per day have been associated with increased blood concentrations of uric acid and an increased incidence of gout due to the action of the enzyme xanthine oxidase. It may also cause reduced bone growth and reduced bone density.

One study found that high intake of the mineral reduces sperm count and fertility in men.

Increased molybdenum levels in the blood were associated to lower testosterone levels in another research. It was linked to a significant 37 percent fall in testosterone levels when paired with low zinc levels.

Finally, high intake may contribute to a reduction in copper bioavailability and alter nucleotide metabolism.


Molybdenum mostly interacts with tungsten and copper. Supplementing with molybdenum causes the body’s copper reserves to be depleted, and it’s been used as a chelating agent in disorders like Wilson’s disease, which causes copper to build up in the body.

The basic conclusion is that you don’t need to be concerned about molybdenum as long as you consume a balanced diet rich in whole foods.

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