Molybdenum: Overview

Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral and may be useful in the treatment of certain cardiovascular conditions, asthma, allergies and mercury toxicity.  Because of its involvement with sulfur, it may be warranted for use in cases of asthma that are associated with sulfite sensitivity.

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Molybdenum is a vital part of three important enzyme systems – xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and sulfite oxidase – and so has a vital role in uric acid formation, iron utilization, carbohydrate metabolism, and sulfite detoxification.

Xanthine oxidase helps in the production of uric acid, an end product of protein (purine) metabolism.  Xanthine oxidase may also help in the mobilization of iron from liver reserves.

Aldehyde oxidase helps in the oxidation of carbohydrates and other aldehydes, including acetaldehyde produced from ethyl alcohol.


Molybdenum is a trace mineral.  Found sparingly in the earth's crust, it is concentrated in milk and milk products, dried legumes, organ meats (liver, kidney) and some cereals.  The amount of molybdenum in plant foods varies significantly and is dependent upon the mineral content of the soil.  The best sources of this mineral are beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and grains.  Hard tap water can also supply molybdenum to the diet.  Molybdenum is also available as a supplement.

Function; Why it is Recommended

Since molybdenum's activities in humans are so newly known, it does not have wide usage.  Even the uses suggested in some nutritional texts are under question and require more research.

In the soil and possibly in the body, as the enzyme nitrate reductase, molybdenum can reduce the production or counteract the actions of nitrosamines, known cancer-causing chemicals, especially in the colon.  Found more in molybdenum-deficient soils, nitrosamines have been associated with high rates of esophageal cancer.

There are few research findings to suggest that molybdenum may play a role in preventing cancer and definitely none to support its use in cancer treatment.

Adding molybdenum to the soil and diet has helped reduce the incidence of esophageal cancer in the Lin Xian area of China's Hunan Province, which had the highest incidence in the world of this deadly disease.  It is unlikely, however, that lack of molybdenum in the soil and, thus, in the diet was a direct cause of the cancer; it was probably due to the production of nitrosamines in the soil that could not be metabolized because of a deficiency in the plants' roots activity of the molybdenum enzyme, nitrate reductase.  Both vitamin C, which helps detoxify nitrosamine, and nitrate reductase, which needs molybdenum to function, can help reduce the levels of this carcinogenic chemical as it has done for the Chinese esophageal cancer rates secondary to low soil molybdenum.  It is also possible that molybdenum can help protect the body from nitrosamine formation after consumption of foods high in nitrates or nitrites, such as lunch meats.

The suggestions that it protects the teeth from dental caries and that it prevents sexual impotence are not yet supported by definitive research.

Sulfites in the urine are indicative of molybdenum need.  Urine sulfite dipsticks are available from Meridian Valley Laboratory which can be found on our links page.


Since molybdenum inhibits the intestinal absorption of copper and iron, it may be wise to balance molybdenum supplementation with copper supplements.  Both molybdenum and copper can cause deficiency in the other.

Molybdenum by IV administration stimulates sulfite metabolism but it is not very effective orally; oral use should therefore be with the most effective chelates available, such as molybdenum picolinate at 1-3mg per day.

No official USRDA exists for molybdenum, as true deficiencies are rare.

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Molybdenum can help with the following:


Iron Deficiency Anemia

Molybdenum may help prevent anemia by helping mobilize iron, provided there are sufficient iron stores.

Environment / Toxicity

Copper Toxicity

Since high levels of copper in the body or diet may result in molybdenum insufficiency and cause low uric acid levels, reducing copper toxicity can result in normalizing uric acid and molybdenum levels.  Intake of molybdenum at doses as low as 0.54mg per day has been associated with an increased loss of copper in the urine.

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)

Molybdenum may be useful in the treatment of certain cardiovascular conditions, asthma, allergies and mercury toxicity.

Lab Values

Uric Acid Levels Low

Uric acid levels can be raised with supplemental molybdenum.  While taking molybdenum orally may raise uric acid levels, IV administration may be required in some cases.  Further evidence of an interaction comes from a study of men who consumed 10 to 15mg of molybdenum per day for prolonged periods who then developed high serum uric acid levels.


Sulfite Sensitivity

Molybdenum deficiency may be responsible for sulfite sensitivity since it is a cofactor for sulfite oxidase.  Sulfite oxidase catalyzes the last step (sulfites to sulfates) in the breakdown of sulfur amino acids.  Sulfite oxidase in this way helps to detoxify sulfurs in the body – particularly sulfites – which are used to preserve food.  It is possible that adequate tissue levels of molybdenum keep the sulfite oxidase activity levels high enough to counteract this chemical and reduce potential symptoms; molybdenum deficiency may be a factor in those people who are more sensitive to sulfites.


Not recommended for
Gout / Hyperuricemia

Molybdenum is known to raise uric acid levels which is why people with gout (a condition of elevated uric acid levels) are told to avoid molybdenum supplements.

Note, however: Molybdenum deficiency may reduce uric acid formation, which was not previously thought to be a problem, but it may be important to supplement molybdenum to maintain uric acid levels in midnormal range for the antioxidant function as well as possible others.

Neck / Spine

Low Back Pain

Margaret Moss, MA, found that taking oral molybdenum over a 28-day period produces a "statistically significant improvement" in patients with arthritis and other aches and pains as well as in their general health.  Moss monitored
14 middle-aged people with symptoms of arthritis, low back pain, frozen shoulder, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, as they took 400-500mcg daily (in 4-5 doses of 100mcg) of molybdenum amino acid chelate.




Molybdenum may be useful in the treatment of certain cardiovascular conditions, asthma, allergies and mercury toxicity.  Because of its involvement with sulfur, it may be warranted to use in asthma that is associated with sulfite sensitivity.

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May be useful:
may help with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
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is highly recommended for
Often counterindicated: is often not recommended for
Often counterindicated:
is often not recommended for
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