Molybdenum is an essential mineral for the proper function of many enzymes. While severe molybdenum deficiency is relatively rare, there are some people who may need more to perform at their best. Keep reading to know the role this mineral plays in your health.

What is Molybdenum?

Molybdenum is an essential mineral needed by the body in very small amounts.

Molybdenum helps the following enzymes function properly (acting as a cofactor) [1]:

  • Sulfite oxidase: converts highly reactive sulfite into the more stable sulfate, helps generate ATP, and is necessary for the processing of sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine and cysteine).
  • Xanthine oxidoreductase: converts purines like xanthine into uric acid, which is then excreted via urine, and increases antioxidant capacity of the blood
  • Aldehyde oxidase and aldehyde dehydrogenase: convert harmful aldehydes like acetaldehyde (a byproduct of alcohol) into harmless acids
  • Mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC): a recently discovered enzyme and although its exact function is unknown, it detoxifies N-hydroxylated bases that cause DNA mutations

Molybdenum is also part of tooth enamel and may help prevent tooth decay.

Food Sources

Molybdenum is found in low to moderate levels in most foods, with legumes, grains, dairy products, and meat having the highest amounts [2].

However, the molybdenum content of foods can vary depending on the molybdenum content of the soil in which they were grown [2].

The following foods have the highest amount of molybdenum [3]:

  • Seoritae, a type of black soybean (33 µg/100 g)
  • Mung beans (27 µg/100 g)
  • Peanuts (21 µg/100 g)
  • Red Bean (16 µg/100 g)
  • Pumpkin seeds (12 µg/100 g)

Some foods like soy contain high levels of phytic acid that binds to molybdenum and prevents it from being absorbed. One study found that only 57% of molybdenum from soy was absorbed compared to 88% from kale [4].

Water sources also contain small amounts of the mineral, with some sources containing up to 2 µg per liter [5].

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 34 µg (ages 9 – 13 years), 43 µg (ages 14 – 18), and 45 μg (19 years and older). The RDA for children is 17 μg (ages 1 – 3) and 22 μg (ages 4 – 8) [6].

The RDA for pregnant and lactating women of all ages is 50 μg [6].

The average American man consumes 109 μg and the average woman consumes 76 μg daily. The highest dose in adults that is unlikely to cause harm is 2 mg/day. This level of intake is only possible through supplementation [7].

Molybdenum can be supplemented in different forms including:

  • Sodium molybdate
  • Ammonium molybdate
  • Molybdenum aspartate
  • Molybdenum citrate
  • Molybdenum glycinate
  • Molybdenum picolinate

Orally supplemented molybdenum (between 22 and 1,490 μg/day) is well-absorbed (88 – 93% absorption rate) [8].

Symptoms of Molybdenum Deficiency

Molybdenum deficiency is extremely rare as molybdenum is easily obtained from the diet in sufficient amounts. There has been only one reported case of a deficiency in a hospitalized patient. The patient was receiving nutrition intravenously for a deficiency in molybdenum [7].

People who are deficient in molybdenum-containing enzymes due to genetic mutations have low sulfite oxidase activity. This makes them unable to process sulfur-containing amino acids and they suffer from severe brain damage [9].


1) Treats and Prevents Sulfite Sensitivity

Sulfites are sulfur-containing molecules are used in the food industry as anti-browning agents, antioxidants, and preservative. Sulfite sensitivity is triggered by foods or drinks high in sulfites, including [10]:

  • Bottled soft drinks and juices, beer, and wine
  • Dried apricots
  • Deli meats, mincemeats, and sausages
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Sauerkraut
  • Maple Syrup

Symptoms of sulfur sensitivity include [11]:

  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Tingling sensations
  • Shock
  • Loss of consciousness

Sometimes reactions to sulfite can be fatal and some cases have been reported [11].

Molybdenum deficiency can decrease the amount of sulfite oxidase that converts sulfite to sulfate. A buildup of sulfite can lead to sulfite sensitivity [11].

Sulfites are one of the potential allergens (along with peanuts, fish, crustaceans, gluten, and dairy) that are required to be labeled on food and drink products worldwide [10].

One patient who with intolerance had increased amino acid but mainly l-methionine levels in the blood. When treated with molybdenum the patient’s sulfur breakdown went back to normal [12].

2) Balances Uric Acid Levels

In cases of molybdenum deficiency, xanthine oxidase function is impaired leading to low levels of uric acid in blood and urine [2].

Low uric acid levels due to xanthine oxidase dysfunction may aggravate disorders such as:

Uric acid also acts as a strong antioxidant and scavenges reactive oxygen species (ROS) [16].

3) Improves Circulation

Molybdenum acts as a critical component of nitrate reductase, an enzyme that breaks down nitrate, which is crucial for nitric oxide production [17]. Nitrate is broken down to nitrogen dioxide, a direct precursor to nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide has many benefits including:

  • Dilating blood vessels [18]
  • Regulating cell growth [18]
  • Protecting blood vessels from injury [18]

Molybdenum maintains normal nitric oxide levels and helps circulation.

4) May Reduce the Risk Of Esophageal and Rectal Cancers

Populations living on molybdenum-deficient soil have higher rates of esophageal cancer [2].

Also, low molybdenum levels are a risk factor for esophageal and rectal cancer in women [19].

5) Essential for Detoxifying Alcohol and other Drugs

Molybdenum is needed for the proper function of aldehyde oxidase and aldehyde dehydrogenase [2]. Aldehyde dehydrogenase converts acetaldehyde (a harmful product of alcohol) into acetic acid.

Aldehyde oxidase is also involved in metabolizing many pharmaceutical drugs [20].

6) May Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Healthy intakes of molybdenum have been associated with lower rates of cavities [21].

In a study on cow teeth, enamel treated with molybdenum-supplemented fluoride saw increased healing of cavities due to an increased rate in mineral repair [22].

Drug Interactions

High doses of molybdenum have been shown to block the processing of acetaminophen (Tylenol) [23].

Dosage and Toxicity

High molybdenum levels can cause gout-like symptoms due to an increase in uric acid levels [24].

An electrician exposed to high levels of molybdenum displayed gout-like symptoms. However, these symptoms went away during an exposure-free period of eleven months [25].

Supplementation with molybdenum has also been shown to cause a copper deficiency in cattle, so individuals who are copper deficient should be cautious when considering supplementing with molybdenum [26, 27].

Mega-dosing with molybdenum has shown to be very dangerous. One person who took 300 – 800 μ/day for 18 days developed psychosis, seizures, and brain damage [28].

Blood levels of molybdenum usually range between 0.28 – 1.17 ng/mL in healthy people [29].

User Experiences

Molybdenum is often used by individuals on the “Candida Diet” as a way to improve the detoxification of fungus toxins.

Some users experience gas, diarrhea, and stomach upset supplementing with 100 μg/day.


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About the Author

Will Hunter

BA (Psychology)
Will received his BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 
Will's main passion is learning how to optimize physical and mental performance through diet, supplement, and lifestyle interventions. He focuses on systems thinking to leverage technology and information and help you get the most out of your body and brain.

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