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Mineral Nutrient :: Molybdenum


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Content Below: What is Molybdenum · Benefits · Deficiency Signs · Foods · Supplements · RDA · Toxicity

What is Molybdenum ?
Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral, needed in very small quantities by almost all life forms.  In the human body it is found in the bones, liver, and kidneys.

Serious research into the importance of molybdenum has been carried out only in the last 20 years or so.  Evidence shows molybdenum is needed for optimal health, and lack of it triggers certain health problems.

How Molybdenum Benefits Health
Molybdenum plays a role in a number of important bio-chemical processes, like waste processing in the kidneys, development of the nervous system, and the activation of enzymes that are involved in breaking down food to produce energy.

It is also being tested for cancer treatment.  It has shown some promise in animal trials, especially in reducing the side effects of certain cancer drugs on the lungs and heart.

In a small study of patients with kidney cancer, it helped slow the rate of tumor growth in some of them, by depleting the body of copper, which is needed for new blood vessel formation.  Researchers believe molybdenum may help other cancer treatments in the same way.

:: Molybdenum Benefits & Functions
1. promotes normal cell function
2. functions as a cofactor for three essential enzymes that play a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism, utilization of iron, sulfite detoxification, and uric acid formation
3. works with riboflavin (vitamin B2) to incorporate iron into haemogloblin, and so supports production of red blood cells
4. needed for nitrogen metabolism, to enable the body to use nitrogen
5. used to treat sulfite sensitivity (sulfites are used in food processing, to prevent oxidation and spoilage) and has been used to alleviate asthma and allergies related to sulfite sensitivity
6. used to treat inborn errors of metabolism (such as Wilson's disease) where the body cannot process copper


Molybdenum Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
Most people get enough molybdenum, if they eat foods from nutrient-rich soil, as only a small amount of it is needed.  Supplementation is normally not required.

Deficiency rarely happens, except for example, where there is a genetic problem that prevents the body from absorbing molybdenum from food, or in cases of prolonged intravenous feeding.

While deficiency is rare, those whose diets rely mainly on processed or refined foods might not be getting enough of it for optimal health.  High sulfur intake can also reduce molybdenum levels.

:: Molybdenum Deficiency Symptoms
1. increased respiratory or heart rate
2. night blindness (difficulty with seeing in the dark)
3. mouth and gum disorders
4. sexual impotence in older males
5. sulfite sensitivity (if molybdenum level is not enough for detoxification)


Molybdenum Foods
For most people, the main source is food.  The richest molybdenum food sources are plants but the nutrient content varies with the amount of it in the soil.

Major molybdenum foods are · garbanzo beans (chickpeas) · pinto beans · dried peas.

Other molybdenum food sources are · legumes (beans, peas, lentils) · brown rice · millet · cereal grains · whole grains · liver · nuts · dark green leafy vegetables.


Molybdenum Supplements
Taking vitamins and minerals in their correct balance is vital to the proper functioning of all vitamins.  They work synergistically, which means that the effectiveness of any one nutrient requires, or is enhanced, sometimes dramatically, by the presence of certain other nutrients.

For this reason, if you are looking to take supplements for maintenance of optimal health, the recommended approach is to take a multi-vitamin that has the proper balance of all the necessary nutrients your body needs.

For a list of reputable top ranked vitamin and mineral supplements chosen in an independent supplement review, see Best Multivitamin Supplements. Many of these are manufactured to pharmaceutical or nutraceutical GMP compliance, which is the highest multivitamin standard possible.

Keep in mind, however, that while mineral supplements are useful to plug nutritional gaps that are almost inevitable in modern diets, and to ensure we get optimal doses of nutrients, they are no substitute for a good diet. Instead, use them to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Molybdenum RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)
The Food & Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, in their 1997-2001 collaboration between the US and Canada, set the daily Adequate Intake (AI) of Molybdenum as follows.

Life Stage | Gender Molybdenum Dosage | Day
Infants 0-6 mths 2* µg
Infants 7-12 mths 3* µg
Children 1-3 yrs 17 µg
Children 4-8 yrs 22 µg
Girls 9-13 Yrs 34 µg
Boys 9-13 Yrs 34 µg
Females 14-18 Yrs 43 µg
Males 14-18 Yrs 43 µg
Females 19-50 Yrs 45 µg
Males 19-50 Yrs 45 µg
Females older than 50 Yrs 45 µg
Males older than 50 Yrs 45 µg
Pregnant Women 14-18 Yrs 50 µg
Pregnant Women 19-50 Yrs 50 µg
Lactating Mothers 14-18 Yrs 50 µg
Lactating Mothers 19-50 Yrs 50 µg

These dosages are the minimum required per day to ward off deficiency. In therapeutic use of this nutrient, dosage is increased as necessary for the ailment, keeping in mind Molybdenum toxicity levels.


1 µg = 1 mcg = 1 microgram = 1/1,000,000 of a gram
1 mg = 1 milligram = 1/1,000 of a gram

* Indicates AI figures based on Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) figures


Molybdenum Overdose Symptoms, Toxicity Level & Side Effects
Molybdenum is generally considered to be safe as there is little evidence of toxicity even at several times the RDA.  Excessive intake however, of more than 10 mg daily over a long period has been linked to gout-like symptoms such as pain and swelling of joints.

Other symptoms of molybdenum toxicity include dizziness, tiredness, and rashes.  As molybdenum interferes with copper metabolism, too much of it can cause low red blood cell count (anemia) or low white blood cell count, due to lack of copper.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for molybdenum, listed in the table below.  These are levels above which there might be risk of molybdenum toxicity, if taken over a long time.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for Molybdenum per Day
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0 to 12 months *ND *ND    
1 to 3 years 300 µg 300 µg    
4 to 8 years 600 µg 600 µg    
9 to 13 years 1100 µg 1100 µg    
14 to 18 years 1700 µg 1700 µg 1700 µg 1700 µg
19 years & above 2000 µg 2000 µg 2000 µg 2000 µg
*ND : Not determinable.  Intake should be from food/milk only.

The ULs do not apply to the therapeutic use of molybdenum for treatment, which should be under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

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1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.

2. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center [MIC]: Micronutrient research for optimum health. MIC home page. <http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter>. Accessed 2009 May.

3. American Cancer Society: Molybdenum. <http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_5_3x_Molybdenum.asp>. Accessed 2009 May 24.

4. Balch JF, Balch PA. Prescription for nutritional healing: A practical A-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing; 1990.

5. Ulene A. Dr. Art Ulene's complete guide to vitamins, minerals and herbs. New York, NY: Avery Publishing; 2000.

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