What is Molybdenum?

Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral needed by the body.

Molybdenum plays an important role in eliminating toxins through the metabolism of amino acids that contain sulfur.  Molybdenum is a part of the enzymes sulfite oxidase, xanthine oxidase, and aldehyde oxidase. [1]

Molybdenum comes from the Latin word molybdena referring to a salt of lead and from the Greek word molubdaina ‘plummet’ and from the word molubdos ‘lead’.

Health benefits of Molybdenum

Molybdenum may help with copper toxicity

Copper toxicity been linked to a number of health conditions such as Wilson’s disease, arthritis joint pain and ankylosing spondylitis. Molybdenum is a copper antagonist and can lower copper levels. Other cofactors such as sulfur and copper can also lower copper levels and potentially reduce symptoms associated with toxic levels of copper.

Supports enzymatic activity

Molybdenum is a part of the enzymes sulfite oxidase, xanthine oxidase, and aldehyde oxidase and aldehyde dehydrogenase. Each enzyme has an important function in the body.


Helps balance uric acid levels

Xanthine oxidase helps convert nucleic acid to uric acid which is an important process that helps prevent cells from free radicals. Aldehyde oxidase is another important molybdenum-containing oxidoreductase that is involved in the oxidation of carbohydrates. Certain health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease are affected by low uric acid levels which can further worsen symptoms. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Prevents and reduces sulfite sensitivity

The enzyme sulfite oxidase helps to detoxify sulfites. Sulfites can be found in many processed foods and used as a preservative. Sulfites can occur naturally in some food as wine, raisins and usually produced during the process of fermentation. Sulfites are often added to preserve food. Some individuals can become sensitive to sulfites and develop allergies. Deficiency of molybdenum can lower amount of sulfite oxidase which is needed to convert sulfite into sulfate.

Supports detoxification

Aldehyde oxidase and aldehyde dehydrogenase also require molybdenum and both enzymes are involved in detoxification of various harmful substances. Aldehyde oxidase helps with the metabolism of pharmaceutical drugs whilst aldehyde dehydrogenase is needed to process acetaldehyde (a byproduct of alcohol) into acetic acid.

[8] [9]

Improves Circulation

Molybdenum is an important part of the enzyme nitrate reductase which is involved in the breakdown of nitrates into nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is needed for nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is essential for blood vessel health and is involved in increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure. Nitric oxide is highly dependent on molybdenum and can improve circulation.

[10] [11]

May Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Some studies are showing sufficient levels of molybdenum may reduce cavities, however more research needs to be done in this area. [12]              

May prevent cancer

Molybdenum has shown molybdenum to have anti-carcinogenic properties and may help to prevent breast cancer. Some animal studies are showing it may reduce breast cancer. Other studies are showing a higher incidence of esophageal cancer and stomach cancer in areas where the soil is deficient of molybdenum. Women with a molybdenum deficiency have an increased risk of developing esophaeal and rectal cancer. [13] [14]

Agonist / Synergist

Minerals: S, K, Cl-

Molybdenum helps uptake of sulfur by inhibiting copper. Sulfur helps uptake of molybdenum through inhibiting copper.


Minerals: Cu, F-, Mg, P, Se, Zn

Metals: Tungsten, tin

Other: Phytic acid

Molybdenum can lower copper levels. [15]

Molybdenum can remove storage levels of copper (copper stored in tissues and organ sites). [16]

Copper has antagonistic effects on molybdenum.

Food sources of Molybdenum

Molybdenum is found in a variety of food sources which includes legumes (lentils, soy beans), milk, cheese, wholegrains, nuts, leafy vegetables, cauliflower and organ meats.

Plant based food source of molybdenum will be highly dependent on soil levels of molybdenum. Phytic acid is high in whole grains and legumes which will need to be processed to remove phytic acid in order to absorb molybdenum. [17]

Recommended Dietary Allowance


Molybdenum: Adequate Intake (AI) in micrograms (mcg/d)


0-6 months

2 mcg

7-12 months

3 mcg





Molybdenum: Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in micrograms (mcg/d)


1-3 years

17 mcg

4-8 years

22 mcg





Molybdenum: Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in micrograms (mcg/d)


9-13 years

34 mcg



14-18 years

43 mcg



19-30 years

45 mcg



31-50 years

45 mcg



51+ years

45 mcg












9-13 years

34 mcg



14-18 years

43 mcg

50 mcg

50 mcg

19-30 years

45 mcg

50 mcg

50 mcg

31-50 years

45 mcg

50 mcg

50 mcg

51+ years

45 mcg





Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for molybdenum is set at or 2000 mcg (2 mg) for healthy adults.

[18] [19] [20]

Molybdenum Supplementation

Molybdenum is available as tablets, capsules and liquid form. Molybdenum is available as Chelated Molybdenum, Molybdenum Citrate, Molybdenum Picolinate, Sodium Molybdate and Ionic Molybdenum. It can also be found in multivitamins and mineral complex formulas.

Deficiency symptoms of Molybdenum

Molybdenum deficiency is rare and insufficient data currently exists on the various symptoms. The following symptoms have been associated with a molybdenum deficiency:

  • Dizziness
  • Low uric acid
  • Increased triglycerides
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty seeing in the dark (Night blindness)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Risk of certain cancers (esophageal and rectal)
  • Sexual impotence (older males)
  • Sulfite sensitivity or toxicity (see sulfite sensitivity for symptoms below)
  • Coma

The following conditions have been associated with a molybdenum deficiency:

  • Spinal degeneration
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Cancer (esophageal, rectal)
  • Wilson’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

Causes of a molybdenum deficiency include:

  • Insufficient dietary intake
  • High intake of antagonistic nutrients (example phytic acid)
  • Malabsorption (due to genetic condition, chron’s disease)

Molybdenum deficiency can result in sulfite toxicity due to lowered sulfite oxidase activity which is needed to convert sulfites into sulfate. Sulfite are found in many processed foods and used as a preservative.

Sulfite sensitivity symptoms include:

  • Tachycardia
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Tingling sensations
  • Shock
  • Wheezing
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Hives (urticaria)
  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

A deficiency of molybdenum can also mean a higher level of sulfite from the breakdown of the sulfur containing amino acids cysteine and methione. People with asthma may be particularly sensitive to sulfite.

People who are low on molybdenum supported enzymes from genetic mutation will also have low levels of sulfite oxidase in which case the inability to process sulfur containing enzymes could lead to brain damage.

[21] [22]

Toxicity symptoms of Molybdenum

Toxicity symptoms of molybdenum is rare. However, molybdenum could potentially cause gout symptoms in individuals with impaired purine metabolism to convert into uric acid. Impaired purine metabolism has been linked to the prevalence of gout.

The following are some of the symptoms linked to toxic levels of molybdenum:

  • Gout
    • Joint pain
    • Swollen joints
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Itchy skin / rashes
  • Copper deficiency
  • Low red blood cell count (from lack of copper)
  • Low white blood cell count (from lack of copper)

Only one reported case of acute toxicity from high dose of molybdenum has been recorded with 300 – 800 mcg consumed per day for 18 days with a total ingestion of 13.5 mg for this duration causing symptoms of psychosis, hallucinations and seizures. [23]

People with impaired copper metabolism with a copper deficiency can be at risk of molybdenum toxicity. [24]

Molybdenum and copper are antagonistic and can lead to complications with diabetes.

Precautions and warnings

It’s important to check with your doctor if you are taking any medications or have health conditions that may be affected by molybdenum before supplementing with molybdenum.