The human body requires many minerals, among which molybdenum is an important and indispensable one that is required in very little quantities. Hence, it is known as a trace element or a micronutrient. We receive molybdenum mostly from the food that we consume. In some cases, molybdenum may enter our body through occupational exposure due to inhalation of industrial compounds. Normally, a regular diet that consists of whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables, and nuts may make-up for the body’s requirement of molybdenum.
The body requires molybdenum for a set of diverse functions such as in the active functioning of certain enzymes (molybdenum-dependent enzymes) that are very important for human health. Apart from this, molybdenum is involved in other processes such as cell energy production, proper development of the nervous system, and processing of wastes. Molybdenum is also used to treat improper carbohydrate metabolism and Wilson’s disease; excessive copper levels are known to affect the liver, causing Wilson’s disease. Certain studies have not only linked the prevention of cancer, but also various other disorders (gout, sexual impotence, anemia, etc.) to molybdenum. However, this is currently unsubstantiated and unverified.
According to the US National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of molybdenum for adults (both men and women) is 45 micrograms/day. The RDA during pregnancy and for lactating mothers is 50 micrograms/day. The kidneys and the liver are the sites for molybdenum storage in the body.
The following is a list of foods high in molybdenum:
- Legumes such as peas and lentils
- Kidney beans, navy beans, and lima beans
- Almonds, cashews, chestnuts, and peanuts
- Soy products such as soy milk, soybeans, and tofu
- Dairy products, especially cheese and yogurt
- Leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
Any deficient or excess molybdenum in the body can cause health issues, though it is quite infrequent. Healthy individuals are generally unaffected by increased molybdenum levels. Low levels of molybdenum may affect the synthesis of certain key enzymes; a condition termed as molybdenum cofactor deficiency. This very rare, inherited disorder may result in feeding difficulties, seizures, brain abnormalities, and severe developmental delays in children. Patients on long-term intravenous therapy may also suffer from deficient molybdenum levels. Molybdenum supplements are available in the form of capsules. However, it is always recommended to take the advice of a suitable healthcare professional before taking any molybdenum supplements or bringing about any alteration to your regular food habits and diet such as substantially increasing your intake of molybdenum rich foods.
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI//DRI_Vitamin_A/420-441_150.pdf (accessed on 11/24/2014)
http://www.imoa.info/HSE/environmental_data/human_health/molybdenum_levels_humans.php (accessed on 11/24/2014)
http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Molybdenum_BiomonitoringSummary.html (accessed on 11/24/2014)
http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/molybdenum (accessed on 11/24/2014)
Rajagopalan KV. 1988. Molybdenum: An essential trace element in human nutrition. Ann Rev Nutr 8:401–427.
Droste JHJ, Weyler JJ, Van Meerbeeck JP, Vermeire PA, van Sprundel MP. Occupational risk factors of lung cancer: a hospital based case-control study. Occup Environ Med 1999; 56:322-327.
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Drewnowski, A., & Fulgoni, V. (2008). Nutrient profiling of foods: creating a nutrient-rich food index. Nutrition Reviews, 66(1), 23-39.
Fletcher, R. H., & Fairfield, K. M. (2002). Vitamins for chronic disease prevention in adults: clinical applications. Jama, 287(23), 3127-3129.
Fulgoni, V. L., Keast, D. R., Bailey, R. L., & Dwyer, J. (2011). Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients?. The Journal of nutrition, 141(10), 1847-1854.
Drewnowski, A. (2005). Concept of a nutritious food: toward a nutrient density score. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(4), 721-732.