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Molybdenum Deficiency Symptoms & Causes in Humans

Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Molybdenum deficiency
Your body requires molybdenum in trace amounts, though too much of it can be toxic. The soil in some parts of the world is extremely low in molybdenum, reducing its levels in food. Could you be deficient? Read on to learn about the symptoms and causes of molybdenum deficiency in humans.

What is Molybdenum?

Molybdenum (Mo) is an essential mineral that most living beings need in very small amounts [1].

Certain enzymes require molybdenum to work properly. Molybdenum helps process sulfur-containing amino acids such as methionine and cysteine. It also helps make uric acid and is part of the tooth enamel [1, 2].

Most people get all the molybdenum they need through food and water. Certain supplements and prescription medications can also contain this mineral [1].

The Recommended Dietary Allowance suggests that adults should get about 45 micrograms of molybdenum each day [3].

In this article, we’ll focus on molybdenum deficiency. For a complete breakdown of the benefits and side effects of molybdenum, check out our this article.

Molybdenum Deficiency

Causes

If your food is grown in molybdenum-poor areas, you may be at risk of deficiency.

However, deficiencies are very rare as most people get more than enough molybdenum from their diet.

In the U.S., the average woman gets about 76 mcg of molybdenum each day while men average about 109 mcg each day. This is well above the recommended dietary allowance of 45 mcg per day [1].

There is one documented case of molybdenum deficiency that occurred under unusual circumstances. A hospital patient was receiving nutrition through an IV when they started experiencing nausea, vision problems, and eventually went into a coma. Doctors soon realized these symptoms were linked to a lack of molybdenum in the patient’s IV nutrition [1].

Molybdenum deficiency is extremely rare; the vast majority of people get enough molybdenum from their diet.

Health Effects

Because deficiencies are so rare, it’s not entirely clear what happens when we don’t get an adequate amount of molybdenum.

Based on the only documented case of molybdenum deficiency, blood levels of sulfur-containing compounds (methionine and thiosulfate) increase, while uric acid decreases. This makes sense as molybdenum is responsible for processing sulfur-containing compounds and for producing uric acid [3].

There is also some evidence that molybdenum is linked to dental health. A lack of molybdenum may increase the risk of cavities [2].

Ways to Increase Molybdenum

You receive almost all the molybdenum you need from the food that you eat. But not all foods are made equal when it comes to this mineral. Some good sources include [4]:

  • Seoritae, a type of black soybean
  • Mung beans
  • Peanuts
  • Red beans
  • Pumpkin seeds

Water also contains some molybdenum, although the exact amount can vary greatly depending on the source of the water [5].

Several molybdenum supplements are available in different forms, including:

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

Dosages of supplements can vary greatly, but they typically range from 50 mcg to 1000 mcg.

Read here for more information on molybdenum food sources and supplements.

Certain types of beans and seeds can be good sources of molybdenum. Supplements containing molybdenum are also available.

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Takeaway

Molybdenum is an essential micronutrient that supports the activity of enzymes in your body. Most people get enough molybdenum through diet. In fact, deficiencies are extremely rare. Increase your intake of mung beans, red beans, and pumpkin seeds or take supplements if you think you’re not getting enough.

About the Author

Mathew Eng

Mathew Eng

PharmD
Mathew received his PharmD from the University of Hawaii and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Washington.
Mathew is a licensed pharmacist with clinical experience in oncology, infectious disease, and diabetes management. He has a passion for personalized patient care and believes that education is essential to living a healthy life. His goal is to motivate individuals to find ways to manage their chronic conditions.

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