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Molybdenum is classified as a metallic element and is commonly found in nitrogen-fixing bacteria in nature. It is essential for human, animal and plant health in trace amounts. In humans and animals, it mainly serves as an essential cofactor of enzymes and aids in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. People need very small amounts of molybdenum that can be easily obtained with a healthy diet. A deficiency is very rare in humans, so supplements are rarely needed.

Why Is Molybdenum Necessary?

The main function of molybdenum known in humans is to act as a catalyst for enzymes and help facilitate the breakdown of certain amino acids in the body. Molybdenum combines with sulfite oxidase to catalyze sulfur-containing amino acids that are very important for human health. While cases of molybdenum deficiency are rare, deficiency symptoms include defects in uric acid production as well as decreased metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids. Epidemiological evidence also suggests that populations living in areas where the soil contains less molybdenum are at a greater risk of esophageal cancer. The only confirmed, documented cases of deficiency come from studies in people with congenital metabolic defects involving sulfide oxidase. Two types of sulfide oxidase deficiencies are known: isolated sulfide oxidase deficiency and molybdenum cofactor deficiency. Both types cause neurological damage and are extremely rare.

How Much and What Kind of Needs Does an Adult Need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for molybdenum for men and women is 45 mcg (μg – microgram) per day. On average, American adult males have a daily intake of about 109 mcg molybdenum, while women’s daily intake is about 76 mcg, well above the recommended amount. For pregnant women and breastfeeding women, the BKA is 50 mcg. The risk of toxicity from food sources of molybdenum in humans is very low. The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for adults is 2mg per day and occurs only with careless supplementation.

How Much Does a Child Need?

Infant adequate intake (AI) from birth to six months is 2 mcg and 3 mcg for babies seven to 12 months old, and the baby typically receives it easily with human milk intake. The BKA is 17 mcg for children one to three years old, 22 mcg for children four to eight years old, 34 mcg for children nine to 13 years old, and 43 mcg for children 14 to 18 years old.

How Do You Get Sufficient With Food?

The amount of molybdenum contained in food depends on both the type of food and the soil in which the food (or feed) is growing. Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas, and grains and leafy vegetables are considered good sources of molybdenum. The liver is also a good source of molybdenum, but animal products are often poor sources of the element. In general, the typical American diet contains molybdenum levels well above the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

Are There Any Risks Associated With Too Much Consumption?

Although molybdenum does not have a known level of toxicity in humans, taking it in high concentrations can interfere with the absorption of copper, causing adverse effects on copper levels. One study found that high levels of dietary molybdenum, up to 1,500 mcg, caused excess copper excretion. However, another study has shown no adverse effects of excessive molybdenum intake through supplements (up to 1,500 mcg per day) on copper levels in humans.

Are There Any Other Special Considerations?

Molybdenum is abundant in human tooth enamel and may play a role in reducing the risk of tooth decay.

Molybdenum dust and fumes, such as those found in some industrial settings, can be toxic (particles are trapped in the sinuses when inhaled and then ingested) and direct exposure can cause skin and eye irritation.

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