Why Is Molybdenum an Essential Nutrient?

Medically Reviewed on 8/16/2022
Why Is Molybdenum an Essential Nutrient
Molybdenum is an essential micronutrient required in trace amounts by the body

Molybdenum is a lesser-known trace mineral that plays a critical role in health. Your body needs only small amounts of this mineral for various vital body functions. Without it, there could be a buildup of sulfite and other toxins in your body.

Molybdenum deficiency is rare because it is widely available in the diet. A typical American diet consists of 90 mcg of molybdenum per day. However, molybdenum supplements are still fairly popular.

What is molybdenum?

Molybdenum is an essential micronutrient required in trace amounts by the body and which the body cannot produce naturally on its own. Hence, we need to obtain it from an external source, such as plants and animals that feed on these plants.

Molybdenum can be found in foods such as grains, beans, lentils, and organ meats, although the mineral can also be found in fruits and vegetables.

What is the role of molybdenum in the body?

Molybdenum is usually stored as molybdopterin in the liver, kidney, adrenal glands, and bones. Molybdopterin is an essential cofactor required for the function of some enzymes:

  • Sulfite oxidase converts compounds called sulfites to sulfates. Sulfites are substances found naturally in foods and can be artificially added to preservatives. Sulfite buildup can lead to allergic reactions.
  • Aldehyde oxidase is necessary for breaking down aldehyde that can be toxic to the body and it also helps the liver break down alcohol and other drugs.
  • Xanthine oxidase converts xanthine to uric acid, which is responsible for the breakdown of nucleotides when they are no longer essential. These are then excreted via urine.
  • Mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component removes toxic byproducts of metabolism.

What are molybdenum supplements used for?

Molybdenum supplements are usually not recommended, but their use has been linked to improving various conditions such as:

However, more research is needed to reach a strong conclusion.

How much molybdenum do I need?

Measuring molybdenum in blood and urine is difficult; hence, data from controlled studies are used to estimate requirements. The recommended amount of molybdenum varies with age.

Table 1. Average daily recommended amounts in micrograms (mcg)
Age group Recommended amount (mcg)
Birth to 6 months 2
Infants 7 to 12 months 3
Children 1 to 3 years 17
Children 4 to 8 years 22
Children 9 to 13 years 34
Teens 14 to 18 years 43
Adults 19 years and older 45
Pregnant teens and women 50
Breastfeeding teens and women 50


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What foods are rich in molybdenum?

The amount of molybdenum in different foods depends on the amount of molybdenum present in the soil and water used for irrigation. Some of the richest food sources for molybdenum include:

  • Legumes such as small white beans, red beans, green beans, pinto beans, and peas
  • Whole grains, rice, wheat, oats, nuts, potatoes, bananas, and leafy vegetables
  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Beef, chicken, and eggs
  • Pumpkin seed and sunflower seeds
Table 2. Molybdenum content in some foods
Food Micrograms (mcg) of molybdenum per serving Percent DV (Daily Value)
Black-eyed peas, boiled, 1/2 cup 288 640%
Beef, liver, pan-fried (3 ounces) 104 231%
Lima beans, boiled, 1/2 cup 104 231%
Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup 26 58%
Milk, 2% fat, 1 cup 22 49%
Potato, baked, flesh and skin, 1 medium 16 36%
Cheerios cereal, 1/2 cup 15 33%
Shredded wheat cereal, 1/2 cup 15 33%
Banana, 1 medium 15 33%
White rice, long grain, cooked, 1/2 cup 13 29%
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 12 27%
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 11 24%
Chicken, light meat, roasted, 3 ounces 9 20%
Egg, large, 1 soft-boiled 9 20%
Spinach, boiled, 1/2 cup 8 18%
Beef, ground, regular, pan-fried, 3 ounces 8 18%
Pecans, dry roasted, 1 ounce 8 18%
Corn, sweet yellow, cooked, 1/2 cup 6 13%
Cheese, cheddar, sharp, 1 ounce 6 13%
Tuna, light, canned in oil, 3 ounces 5 11%
Potato, boiled without skin, 1/2 cup 4 9%
Orange, 1 medium 4 9%
Green beans, boiled, 1/2 cup 3 7%
Carrots, raw, 1/2 cup 2 4%
Asparagus, boiled, 1/2 cup 2 4%

What are the risks of too much molybdenum?

Molybdenum is easily excreted through urine when obtained from food sources. While rare, toxicity is possible in people who live in areas where the soil has high molybdenum levels. Molybdenum toxicity can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Joint aches
  • Gout-like symptoms
  • High uric acid levels
  • Decreased fertility
  • Poor bone health
Table 3. Upper limit for molybdenum in different age groups
Age groups Maximum limit
Birth to 12 months Not established
Children 1 to 3 years 300 mcg
Children 4 to 8 years 600 mcg
Children 9 to 13 years 1,100 mcg
Teens 14 to 18 years 1,700 mcg
Adults 2,000 mcg

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Medically Reviewed on 8/16/2022
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