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Molybdenum the Forgotten Mineral

Recommended Daily Intake

Adults (19 years and older) 45mcg

Toxicity levels
Adults (19 years and older) 2,000 (2.0 mg/day)

Molybdenum is an essential trace element.  At this stage not much is known about what it does, only that it is an essential. What we have learned is that it is part of one of a number of enzymes that we need to stay alive and stay healthy.

So, what happens if we don’t have enough?

The scary stuff first.

What would happen if somehow you had no molybdenum at all? To find out, we need only look at what happens when a genetic defect means you can’t use it.

Very rare inborn errors of molybdenum metabolism are usually caused by the inability use molybdenum. It makes the molybdenum-containing enzymes in the body.

Symptoms of these genetic defects are seizures. They usually start a few days after birth, but we can add mental retardation, brain abnormalities, and dislocated eye lenses to the list of possible symptoms, as well as high concentrations of sulphite, uric acid, and xanthine in our blood and urine. Symptoms rapidly get worse in cases with classical molybdenum deficiency and the condition ends with death within months.

If you’re reading this, then it’s a dead give away that that it didn’t happen to you and you can absorb and use molybdenum quite nicely.  However, there are cases of people with Crohn’s disease who develop chronic molybdenum deficiency.

What does Molybdenum do in the body?

It’s an essential part of a few really important enzymes. These include Sulphate oxidase, Xanthine Oxidase, Aldehyde oxidase and Mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC).

The last one (mARC) has only just been discovered. As yet we know almost nothing about what it does, except that it catalyses the catalyzescation of mutagenic N-hydroxylated bases.

And no, I had no idea what that meant either and after much research the best I could come up with is that it might be involved in protecting cellular DNA.

Sulphate Oxidase

Molybdenum is needed for Sulphate oxidase to function. Most of it is found in the liver and brain and its job is to turn sulphites into sulphates. The body can use sulphates, but not sulphites. We also need it for the metabolism of sulphur containing amino acids methionine and cysteine.

Sulphites can inhibit 90% of lung ATP energy production, can impair liver cell ATP energy production, and can deplete glutathione.

Some people have a sulphite sensitivity. The usual symptoms they experience from eating sulphite containing foods include:

  • Fatigue
  • Coughing, due to the drop in ATP in the lungs
  • Asthma
  • Low blood glucose, due to sulphites being able to disrupt the regulation of blood sugar
  • Headache and brain fog
  • Itchy, red skin.

We also need sulphite oxidase for detoxification, cartilage formation and antioxidant function.

It’s used in making cartilage.  If you’ve ever taken glucosamine sulphate, and found that it has improved joint health or reduced joint pain, the sulphate that is a really important part of that compound couldn’t do its job without molybdenum there to do its job with the enzymes.

Aldehyde dehydrogenase

It’s involved in nervous system metabolism, including the metabolism of neurotransmitters, namely adrenalin, noradrenalin, serotonin, and melatonin.  It plays a role in their breakdown; and the rate of breakdown and synthesis is closely linked.

Too much or too little of any neurotransmitter has serious consequences.

As part of liver function, it is one of the major enzymes for the detoxification of xenobiotics.  Xenobiotics are anything the body has to deal with that are not part of normal metabolism. This includes drugs, toxins, poisons, anything else artificial and that includes alcohol.

Xanthine oxidase

It’s the enzyme responsible for uric acid formation.

Yes, too much uric acid is the main culprit in gout. But strange as it may seem, not enough is just as bad. It is another molecule that works as an antioxidant. People born without the ability to turn xanthine into uric acid often have severe neurological problems.

Xanthine oxidase catalyses the breakdown of nucleotides (precursors to DNA and RNA) to form uric acid, which contributes to the plasma antioxidant capacity of the blood.

Molybdenum and Nitrates

Nitrates are nitrogen based compounds found in plants, soils and drinking water. They are a major problem in the USA because they have crept into aquifers and consequently into millions of people’s drinking water.

  • Nitrates can be converted into nitrites in the body.
  • Nitrate to nitrite conversion requires molybdenum
  • Nitrite to nitric oxide conversion requires molybdenum.

When a nitrate melds with an amine you get nitrosamines, and these little guys are carcinogenic.  Molybdenum can interfere with the joining of the nitrate to the amine and thus reduce nitrosamines.

Molybdenum and Urinary acid excretion

The renal system has sole responsibility for ridding the body of acids such as phosphoric acids, uric acids, lactic acids, and ketone acids. It leaves in the form of ammonia and hydrogen.

The ammonia molecule has the formula NH3, (one Nitrogen and three hydrogens). Molybdenum is involved in this joining of nitrogen and hydrogen to make ammonia so it can be easily excreted from the body and pH levels in the body can be maintained.

Disease Prevention

There are a couple of studies that indicate the effect of long-term molybdenum deficiency or abundance.

Abundance does not mean toxicity, just a bit more than normal. Both of these studies are from areas of China.

One was in Linxian, which is in northern China. In this part of the world, the prevalence of oesophageal and stomach cancer is 10 x higher than the rest of China and 100 x higher than the US.  The soil in Linxian is low in a number of minerals, but especially in molybdenum. If the soil is low, then any foods grown in it will also be low, and the humans eating the foods also low.

High nitrosamine levels, which you get in low molybdenum soils, contribute to the development of oesophageal and stomach cancers.

On the other side of the molybdenum spectrum, you have Jiangsu province in China and this little part of the world is known for the longevity of the locals. It’s impossible to claim that one simple factor could possibly be responsible for living to a ripe old age, but the findings of one study are interesting.  Significant correlations were found between the ratio of people over 90 years old per 100,000 inhabitants and higher levels of trace elements, including molybdenum, in soils, drinking water, and rice.

The percentage of long-lived people, greater then 80 years old in Zhongxiang (Hubei province) was also positively linked to the content of molybdenum in their staple food, rice.

In these regions, it is likely that combinations of trace elements contribute to optimum health and longevity as opposed to the sole effect of molybdenum.

Summarizing, Molybdenum Deficiency may be associated with

  • Sulfite sensitivity
  • Asthma
  • Poor detoxification
  • Cardiovascular risk
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Dental caries
  • Gout
Ian Blair Hamilton AlkaWay Global