Molybdenum is a micronutrient. Micronutrients are substances such as minerals and vitamins that the body needs in order to function properly. Micronutrients are essential for healthy development and growth, disease prevention and healing, and optimum function in the body. Each micronutrient has different properties and functions, and almost all of them need to be consumed because the body cannot produce them by itself (Vitamin D is the exception as it is produced in the body as a response to sunlight). Molybdenum is a mineral that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. It is found in the earth that we grow food in, so it is obtained when we eat plants (or animals that feed on plants).
What is Molybdenum?
Molybdenum is an essential mineral that plays an important role in many processes within the human body. One of its most important roles is in breaking down drugs and eliminating toxins from the body. However, many people have never heard of Molybdenum. Even those interested in nutrition and are careful to meet their daily nutritional needs may have never heard of this micronutrient. This is because the body needs very little Molybdenum, and it is relatively easy to obtain through a normal balanced diet.
How Does Our Body Use It?
This nutrient is absorbed from food through the digestive system. When it makes its way to the liver and kidneys, it is stored and then gets to work by activating essential enzymes in the body. These enzymes do a number of important jobs. They help break down other toxic substances such as aldehydes, alcohol, and drugs. It also works to break down nucleotides. These are the component parts of DNA, and breaking them apart and excreting them when they are no longer required is an important process of the body. Any excess molybdenum is simply excreted from the body in the urine. These enzymes, activated by Molybdenum, also prevent sulfites from building up in the body. Sulfites are found in foods (often added as a preservative to extend the shelf-life of products), and they may build up in the body. When sulfites build up, they can cause unwanted symptoms such as skin issues, digestive issues such as diarrhea, or they can trigger sulfite-sensitive asthma, which can cause breathing problems.
Rich Food Sources
It is hard to say with certainty which foods are rich in Molybdenum because it depends on the content of the soil that the foods are grown in. Where intensive farming has depleted the nutrients found in the soil, there may be very little – or even no – Molybdenum in the soil. This means that crops harvested from this soil will not contain Molybdenum. On the other hand, plants grown in soil that is rich in Molybdenum will have higher levels. In general, though, there are certain plants that usually do contain more of this essential nutrient. Some of these are listed below:
- Legumes (including beans)
- Leafy vegetables
- Dairy produce such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Beef and chicken, especially organ meat
How Much Do We Need?
We only need trace amounts of Molybdenum in order to function well. It is extremely rare that a person is found to be deficient in Molybdenum, and this usually only occurs as a result of a medical problem. The vast majority of people easily obtain enough Molybdenum from their normal everyday diet to meet their requirements. Most people consume much more than they actually need each day. How much an individuals needs change at different stages of their life. Babies and young children need far less than the average adult who needs about 45mcg. Even this is not a large amount and can easily be obtained through a normal diet. While supplements are available, health experts recommend that people can meet their molybdenum needs easily by simply eating a varied diet. Simply increasing the amount of fresh plant produce that you eat each day will increase the amount of Molybdenum you have in your body. Opting for sustainably farmed or local produce may be more beneficial than produce obtained through intensive farming where the soil may be more depleted, but this is true for all nutrients. There are a few areas in the world where the soil is depleted of Molybdenum, and this has been known in a few cases to lead to higher incidence of disease such as esophageal cancer. However, this is extremely rare.
Can You Have Too Much?
You will not consume too much of this nutrient through eating a normal diet, even if you eat a lot of the types of foods that typically contain it. However, if you are using supplements to increase your intake of this micronutrient, you can take too much and exceed the upper limit for safety. Advice should be taken from a medical professional before you begin supplementing with Molybdenum; only someone with medical training can assess whether you really need to supplement with this mineral and what the upper limit should be based on your unique circumstances. A doctor should take into account your reasons for wanting to supplement, your nutritional needs, any health conditions you have or any medication you may take (including other supplements), as well as other factors such as lifestyle, age, etc. Metalworkers, miners, and other people who are working in the earth can sometimes find they have been exposed to high levels of Molybdenum, and this can result in joint pain and elevated uric acid levels.
Molybdenum is an essential mineral that we all need in trace amounts, but it is also extremely easy to obtain from a regular everyday diet. The majority of us eat more of it than we need. Excess amounts of it can be toxic. For any advice on what you should be eating, any supplements that might benefit you, or any lifestyle changes that could improve your wellbeing, it is always best to see a doctor or nutritionist.