Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
WHAT IS MOLYBDENUM
Molybdenum is an important mineral for human health. It serves as a vital source of enzymes and aids in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. The most important functions of molybdenum is to act as a catalyst for enzymes and to help breakdown of certain amino acids.
The deficiency of molybdenum is believed to be uncommon due to its very low nutritional requirement, and this is the reason why molybdenum is rarely found in supplements.
However, the amount of this mineral in foods we consume greatly depends on the quality of the soil. Therefore, due to soil depletion the deficiency of this mineral should be also considered as possible.
Recently I spoke with a person who for many years suffered from various symptoms, including night blindness, allergy to sulphites, and other singes typical for molybdenum deficiency. Unfortunately, nobody was able to tell her it was caused by lack of molybdenum. However, recently all of those symptoms disappeared after she accidentally started taking a multivitamin-mineral formula which contained 50 mcg of molybdenum per tablet. Before she was taking best possible multivitamins and other supplements and never managed to reduce the symptoms because they didn’t contain molybdenum. When she was trying to figure out why this multivitamin was so effective and compared the content she found out that it was the first supplement she ever took which contained also molybdenum (50mcg per tablet). After reading about molybdenum she also found she had all the typical signs of its deficiency.
Also certain genetic abnormalities may lead to the deficiency of this mineral.
Sulphur supplements such as MSM depletes molybdenum as it is required to metabolise sulphur.
POSSIBLE DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS
The signs of a molybdenum deficiency may include a night blindness, sensitivity to sulfites, rapid resting heart rate and signs associated with poor iron absorption.
People who are deficient in molybdenum-containing enzymes due to genetic mutations have low sulfite oxidase activity which makes them unable to process sulphur-containing amino acids leading to a severe brain damage.
Symptoms of deficiency include also problems with uric acid production.
Depending on soil content of this mineral, legumes (pulses), such as beans, lentils, and peas, are regarded as the richest sources of molybdenum. Also grains, seeds (especially sunflower seeds), leafy greens such as kale, and nuts are good sources (if they grow on molybdenum rich soils), while animal products, fruits, and many vegetables are generally low in molybdenum.
Over 50 enzymes containing molybdenum had been discovered, and this number is still growing. The best-known molybdenum-related enzymes include sulfite oxidase, xanthine oxidase and aldehyde oxidase.
HELPS PROTECT CELLS AGAINST OXIDATIVE DAMAGE
Molybdenum activates enzymes that play a significant antioxidant role neutralizing the free radicals to prevent them from damaging healthy cells. In this way Molybdenum helps fight with free radicals that cause aging, cancer, tiredness, weak immune system, heart attacks, strokes and contribute to many other health problems.
NITRIC OXIDE & CIRCULATION
Molybdenum maintains normal levels of nitric oxide which improves blood circulation (by dilating blood vessels), protects blood vessels from injuries and regulates cell growth. Molybdenum is a critical component of nitrate reductase, an enzyme that breaks down nitrate, which is crucial for nitric oxide production as nitrate is broken down to nitrogen dioxide, a direct precursor to nitric oxide.
IMPORTANT IN PREVENTING AND TREATING METABOLIC DISEASES
Molybdenum has excellent metabolic interaction properties. Metabolism refers to the production of energy required to keep our cells healthy and alive. It is also responsible for the breakdown of macronutrients such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates to obtain energy.
There are many enzymes in our body that contain and need Molybdenum. The most important one seems to be sulfide oxidase which activates the conversion of the sulfite compound to sulfate. This activation is very important for maintaining a healthy metabolism rate of sulphur-containing amino acids.
MOLYBDENUM & IRON
There is substantial evidence that problems with iron metabolism can be associated with low molybdenum levels and low activity of enzyme zanthine oxidase (which requires presence of molybdenum) that mediates the release of iron from cellular ferritin.
Problems with iron metabolism can be also triggered by excess blood and liver copper levels.
Molybdenum fights anaemia by actively mobilizing iron found in the body. It interacts with vitamin B2 (riboflavin) to infuse iron and haemoglobin, thus contributing to the development of healthy red blood cells.
Sufficint intake of molybdenum has been linked with lower risk of cavities (>).
Populations residing in regions in which the soil has little molybdenum are at a higher risk of cancer.
A study has revealed that an insufficient levels of molybdenum in the soil can be one of the major causes of cancers, because lack of molybdenum allows a carcinogen nitrosamine found in plants to grow abundantly (>).
Another study found that molybdenum deficiency may contribute to female mortality related to oesophageal and pancreatic cancer.
Molybdenum activates the urinary system helping remove nitrogen metabolic wastes, harmful drugs, urea, and other waste products from the body in the form of urine. It also helps skin to get rid of unwanted waste with sweat.
It is not good to have too much uric acid as it contributes to gout but it is not a commonly known fact that the same uric acid is also a strong antioxidant which scavenges reactive oxygen species (>) and is therefore very beneficial. As a result of low consumption of molybdenum, the function of xanthine oxidase is impaired leading to deficiency of uric acid in the blood and urine (>) thus contributing to various neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease (>), Multiple sclerosis (MS) (>), Alzheimer’s disease (>), or Huntington’s disease (>).
Tetrathiomolybdate is a form of molybdenum that contains four sulphur atoms. These components have shown their ability to reduce excess copper in the body thus being effective in the treatment of autoimmune, fibrotic, and inflammatory diseases.
Tetrathiomolybdate significantly restrains the formation of pulmonary and liver fibrotic. Such a restriction goes a long way in preventing liver damage from acetaminophen and reducing heart damage from doxorubicin (an antibiotic) (>).
ASTHMA & ALLERGIES
Molybdenum has the ability to ease the sulfite-triggered asthma and allergies. The mineral has the ability to convert sulfites (known as allergens) into sulfates, which are not harmful. Sulfites are sulphur-containing molecules are used as preservatives and may cause allergic reactions. Sulfite sensitivity is triggered by foods or drinks high in sulfites, including soft drinks and juices, beer, wine, dried apricots, or deli meats, and sausages. People who are sensative to sulfites may experience various problems including nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and other symptoms. Molybdenum deficiency can be responsible for this problem as lack of this mineral decreases the amount of sulfite oxidase that converts sulfite to sulfate. Therefore, the lack of molybdenum leads to buildup of sulfite and sulfite sensitivity.
There are examples of patients with intolerance to sulfites who had increased amino acid (mainly l-methionine) intake and blood levels whoose sulphur breakdown went back to normal as a result of supplementing with molybdenum (>).
CANDIDA & ACETALDEHYDE
Molybdenum plays a major part in the production of aldehyde oxidase which has the ability to remove neurotoxin acetaldehyde, which is excreted by harmful yeasts (Candida albicans) and alcohol digestion. For this reasons Molybdenum supplements are often used by individuals who want to treat Candida overgrowth as a way to improve detoxification of poisons such as brain-damaging acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a very dangerous toxin that increases the risk of cancer, including brain, kidney and liver. It also leads to the deficiency of B vitamins in the body.
In the human body, xanthine oxidase is mainly present in the liver. When the liver is subjected to harm or damage, xanthine oxidase is discharged in the blood. This tends to contaminate the blood stream. And if an excessive quantity is detected, then that points to severe liver problems. So in such cases, molybdenum is responsible for keeping the level of xanthine oxidase in check.
Molybdenum acts as a cofactor for sulfite oxidase which means it is essential for the formation of this enzyme in the body. Sulfite oxidase is related to our neurological health. The lack of sulfite oxidase leads to neurological problems.
Molybdenum deficiency may lead to night blindness and for this reason those who suffer from this problem should take at least 50 mcg per day of this trace element. Apart from molybdenum also supplemental copper, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, vitamin D3 and magnesium are importent to treat night blindness.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY INTAKE
For adults – 35 µg (ages 9-14 years), 45 µg (ages 15 years and older)
For children – 17 μg (ages 1-3) and 22 μg (ages 4-8)
For pregnant and lactating women of all ages – 50 μg
In healthy people blood levels of molybdenum usually range between 0.28 and 1.17 ng/mL.
SUPPLEMENTAL FORMS OF MOLYBDENUM
Molybdenum can be supplemented in different forms including: molybdenum glycinate, molybdenum citrate, sodium molybdate, ammonium molybdate, molybdenum aspartate, or molybdenum picolinate.
Orally supplemented molybdenum (between 22 and 1490 μg/day) has been shown to be well-absorbed (88-93% absorption rate) (>).
SAFETY OF TAKING SUPPLEMENTS
Because molybdenum deficiency doesn’t seem to be a common problem, supplementing it on a regular basis for a long time doesn’t seem to be a good idea unless the deficiency is confirmed by lab tests. But even in this case taking this mineral should be controlled by a qualified person to avoid toxicity. However, if you still decide to supplement molybdenum take not more than 600 mcg per day periodically or 50 mcg for a longer time with regular one day breaks after every week and one week breaks after every month.
Sometimes molybdenum is one of the ingredients in multivitamin-mineral formulas.
In order to prevent molybdenum deficiency those who take MSM supplements (form of sulphur with detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties) should also take at least 50 mcg of molybdenum per day because sulphur supplements such as MSM deplete molybdenum as it is required to metabolise sulphur.
On the other hand, if your molybdenum levels are too high you can reduce them by taking MSM.
SAFE UPPER LIMIT
The highest dose in adults that is unlikely to cause harm is believed to be 2 mg (2000 μg) per day. This level of intake is only possible through supplementation. However, extremely rarely, in some individuals taking even lower dosages than 2mg per day could be very dangerous. One person who took 300-800 μg per day for 18 days developed seizures, psychosis, and brain damage (>).
It is difficult to explain why although normally much higher intake can be safe yet in case of that man 300-800 μg per day caused such a drastic symptoms. One of the reasons could be copper deficiency as those with an inadequate intake of dietary copper or copper deficiency caused by abnormal copper metabolism could be at greater risk of molybdenum toxicity.
PREVENTS COPPER TOXICITY
Since molybdenum helps to remove excess copper in the body, molybdenum has been used to treat excess concentrations of copper in the body. On the other hand, if the levels of copper are normal or low molybdenum supplements, like zinc, should be taken with small amount of copper (0.5 – 1 mg).
High molybdenum levels can cause gout-like symptoms due to an increase in uric acid levels.
Supplementation with molybdenum has also been shown to cause copper deficiency. It is therefore suggested to take 0.5-1mg of copper while supplementing molybdenum. Also zinc should be taken with copper as zinc also may lead to copper deficiency.
Some users experience gas, diarrhoea, and stomach upset as a result of supplementing with 100 μg per day.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER VITAMINS & MINERALS
– Supplementation with molybdenum has also been shown to cause copper deficiency. It is therefore suggested to take 0.5-1mg of copper while supplementing molybdenum. Also zinc should be taken with copper as zinc also may lead to copper deficiency.
– Since molybdenum helps to remove excess copper in the body, molybdenum has been used to treat excess concentrations of copper in the body. On the other hand, if the levels of copper are normal or low molybdenum supplements, like zinc, should be taken with small amount of copper (0.5 – 1 mg).
– High molybdenum levels can cause gout-like symptoms due to an increase in uric acid levels.
– Some users experience gas, diarrhoea, and stomach upset as a result of supplementing with 100 μg per day.
– High doses of molybdenum have been shown to block the processing of acetaminophen (Tylenol).
INTERACTIONS WITH MEDICATION
High doses of molybdenum have been shown to block the processing of acetaminophen (Tylenol).
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