Molybdenum is a nutrient that people often overlook despite the fact that it plays a critical role in human health. This essential mineral is involved in processing proteins and genetic material. It also helps the body break down toxic substances.

Molybdenum exists in the soil, and a person will usually consume enough through the plants and meat in their diet. The richest sources include pulses, grains, and organ meats.

Deficiencies are rare, as the body needs only trace amounts. Therefore, it is not typically necessary to supplement the diet unless a healthcare professional advises otherwise.

Read on to learn more about the uses of molybdenum, its benefits, and the roles it plays in the body.

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Various bodily processes rely on molybdenum. The body stores some molybdenum in the form of molybdopterin in the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, and bones.

Molybdopterin is a cofactor that the body requires for the function of some enzymes. It is involved in four essential enzyme pathways:

  • Sulfite oxidase: This enzyme converts compounds called sulfites to sulfates. Sulfites occur naturally in foods, and manufacturers may also add them as preservatives. A buildup of sulfites can prompt allergic reactions.
  • Aldehyde oxidase: This enzyme metabolizes aldehydes, which are organic compounds that are toxic at certain levels. It can also help the liver break down alcohol and some drugs.
  • Xanthine oxidase: This enzyme converts xanthine to uric acid, helping break down nucleotides, the components of DNA, when the body no longer needs them.
  • Mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC): It seems that this enzyme helps remove toxic byproducts of metabolism.

Currently, little evidence suggests that people need to supplement this trace mineral. However, some people believe that supplementation has a place in addressing Candida infection symptoms, although the research to support this is lacking.

Some research has linked low levels of molybdenum to a greater risk of esophageal cancer, but experts do not know whether taking supplements decreases this risk.

Normal amounts of molybdenum in foods and drinks do not cause any harm.

However, miners, metalworkers, and other individuals who encounter high levels of molybdenum in the environment may sometimes develop gout-like symptoms and high uric acid levels in the blood. The uric acid causes tiny crystals to form around the joints, which can lead to pain and swelling in that area.

The tolerable upper intake level (UL) is the maximum daily intake of a nutrient that is unlikely to cause harmful health effects for most individuals. Doctors recommend that people do not exceed this level regularly. The UL for molybdenum in adults is 2,000 micrograms (mcg) daily.

Occasionally, molybdenum supplements can cause serious side effects, even for doses below the UL. In one 1999 case, a man consumed 300–800 mcg of molybdenum daily for 18 days. As a result, he developed acute psychosis, experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, seizures, and brain damage.

Additionally, some studies show that high intakes of molybdenum may affect bone growth and mineral density.

For example, one observational study involving 1,496 adults found that an increase in molybdenum intake levels might cause lumbar spine bone density to decrease in females aged 50 years and older. However, there are no controlled studies in humans to confirm these effects. Further research is necessary to help uncover the potential link between molybdenum use and bone density.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for molybdenum varies among individuals depending on their age and pregnancy status:


  • 1–3 years: 17 mcg per day
  • 4–8 years: 22 mcg per day
  • 9–13 years: 34 mcg per day
  • 14–18 years: 43 mcg per day
  • 19 years and over: 45 mcg per day

Anyone who is pregnant or nursing should aim for 50 mcg per day.

Dietary sources

Legumes contain the highest levels of molybdenum. Other rich dietary sources include:

  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • beef liver
  • leafy vegetables
  • dairy products

The amount of molybdenum in a particular plant food may depend on the amount of molybdenum in the soil in which it grew and the water that the farmers used to irrigate the soil.

People should note that there are limited data regarding the amount of molybdenum in food and water. Drinking water seems to contain only trace amounts of molybdenum.

Molybdenum deficiency is rare in humans, but it is possible. In one known case from 1981, a man with Crohn’s disease was receiving total parenteral nutrition, a method of feeding that bypasses the digestive system. He was experiencing symptoms such as headaches, night blindness, and rapid heart rate. The administration of ammonium molybdate, on the advice of the doctors handling this case, was critical to resolving all these symptoms.

In some people, a rare genetic disorder called molybdenum cofactor deficiency can cause deficiencies. This condition prevents the body from synthesizing molybdopterin and sulfite oxidase. It can lead to severe seizures and neurological damage, which can be fatal in early childhood.

Most people do not need to use molybdenum supplements unless a healthcare professional recommends them for a specific medical reason.

Anyone who thinks that they do not receive enough molybdenum through their diet should discuss this with a healthcare professional.

As deficiencies are rare, people should not begin supplementation without medical advice.

Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral that helps the body rid itself of harmful sulfites and prevents toxins from building up in the tissues.

Deficiencies are rare, and the overwhelming majority of people get enough molybdenum in their diet from legumes, grains, dairy, and organ meats. Therefore, most people do not require molybdenum supplements unless a healthcare professional advises taking them.