The human body relies on a wide range of minerals, vitamins, and other micro- and macronutrients to function correctly and remain healthy.
Some of these nutrients are well-known, whereas others are not.
Molybdenum is in the latter group.
Most people don’t know enough about it even though this element is crucial for our health.
Read on to learn the benefits of molybdenum.
What is molybdenum?
Molybdenum is an essential trace mineral crucial for our health and well-being. The name molybdenum comes from Neo-Latin molybdenum. Rooted in the Greek language, that particular term means lead.
Molybdenum is essential for the health of all living beings. Plants, animals, and humans alike need it for proper functioning.
This trace element is also present in the soil, except in soils with high acidity. From there, it is transferred to you through the foods you eat.
What does molybdenum do?
Molybdenum is necessary for processing proteins and genetic material such as DNA. The body relies on this trace element to break down drugs and other toxic substances.
As a structural constituent of molybdopterin, this element is necessary for the function of four enzymes such as xanthine oxidase, sulfite oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC).
By functioning as an enzyme cofactor, molybdenum helps the body prevent the buildup of toxins that could cause various health problems.
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What happens when your body is low on molybdenum?
Low levels of molybdenum in the body may lower libido, decrease spermatogenesis, and cause fertility problems in males. Low molybdenum levels could delay puberty or reduce the conception rate in women.
When levels of molybdenum are low for the long term, they may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. For instance, in one small region in China, the rates of esophageal cancer are around 100 times more common in the United States.
Evidence shows soil in that specific region contains significantly lower amounts of molybdenum, which results in long-term low dietary intake of this element (1).
In other areas with higher rates of esophageal cancer, such as Iran and South Africa, people have low levels of molybdenum in the body (2, 3).
What are the signs and symptoms of molybdenum deficiency?
Molybdenum deficiency is rare in healthy people who eat a well-balanced diet.
Moreover, molybdenum deficiency has been reported only in some people with a genetic mutation that prevents the synthesis of molybdopterin and sulfite oxidase.
In these cases, molybdenum deficiency results in seizures and encephalopathy. The neurological damage due to molybdenum cofactor deficiency can be so severe it leads to the death of an infant.
The only report of acquired molybdenum deficiency occurred in 1981 when a hospital patient received artificial nutrition through a tube. The patient didn’t receive molybdenum.
This led to deficiency and symptoms such as:
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
- Rapid breathing
- Night blindness
The abovementioned symptoms are resolved with the administration of molybdenum (4).
What are the benefits of molybdenum?
Molybdenum is crucial for our health and well-being. The importance of this trace element calls for further research on all its mechanisms of action and effects that we experience.
Below, you can learn more about the most important benefits of molybdenum.
1) Prostate cancer management
According to the American Cancer Society, about one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. About 268,490 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2022. Right behind lung cancer, it is the leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Prostate cancer is treatable, especially when caught early. While more research is necessary, molybdenum could help. Evidence shows molybdenum exhibits anti-proliferative activity against prostate cancer cells (5, 6).
2) Antioxidant effects
Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress and damage it causes.
Evidence shows molybdenum could improve antioxidant defenses, but more studies on this subject are necessary (7). The potential mechanism through which molybdenum exhibits antioxidant effects is down to its basic function.
Remember, molybdenum is a cofactor for four enzymes, including xanthine oxidase. This particular enzyme catalyzes the breakdown of nucleotides (precursors of RNA and DNA) to form uric acid. The result of this activity is the stronger plasma antioxidant capacity of the blood.
Indirectly, molybdenum can help protect us against problems caused by oxidative stress. The consequences of oxidative stress include DNA damage, faster aging, increased cancer risk, higher risk of diabetes, and poor heart health.
Oxidative stress is also associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This doesn’t mean molybdenum can cure enlarged prostate, but it could strengthen the body’s antioxidant defenses, which ultimately reduce the risk of this issue.
3) Improved male fertility
Men can struggle with fertility due to many reasons. Common factors that lead to fertility struggles and infertility include smoking, alcohol use, overweight or obesity, substance use disorder, exposure to toxins, trauma to the testicles, low testosterone levels, and others.
In many cases, fertility problems are manageable. Evidence shows molybdenum can help.
A study from the Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine found that moderate molybdenum dosage increased sperm parameters, including epididymis index, sperm motility, morphology, and sperm count. The same study showed molybdenum improved sperm parameters by tackling testicular oxidative stress (8).
As you can see, molybdenum is important for male fertility. This also explains why low levels of this trace element can negatively affect spermatogenesis.
4) Lower risk of caries
Dental caries affects millions of people around the globe. Also known as dental cavities or tooth decay, this problem is caused by the breakdown of teeth due to acids that bacteria produce.
Caries can destroy teeth and the dental health of a person. The problem becomes even worse when you remember that oral health has a major impact on heart health and general well-being.
One of the most significant benefits of molybdenum is its potential to protect you from caries. Evidence confirms this trace mineral is associated with decreased caries prevalence (9). It’s not entirely clear how molybdenum protects teeth against caries, but it could be down to its function to protect the body against toxic or pathogenic compounds.
5) Managing anemia
Iron deficiency anemia occurs due to insufficient iron in the body. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen.
Iron deficiency anemia can cause various effects, including fatigue, shortness of breath, heart problems, restless leg syndrome, and many others.
Studies show that dietary molybdenum can aid the management of iron deficiency anemia. The anti-anemic effects of molybdenum are due to the increased activity of one or more molybdoenzymes (10).
6) Arthritis management
Arthritis is a name for more than 100 types of conditions indicated by joint pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are among the most prevalent types of this disease.
Joint pain and symptoms such as swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion can impair a person’s quality of life. Lack of flexibility makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
One of the many benefits of molybdenum is arthritis management. You see, dietary molybdenum can treat joint pain associated with arthritis.
The anti-arthritic effects of molybdenum are the same as anti-anemic properties – the increased activity of molybdoenzymes associated with this trace element.
7) Diabetes prevention and management
Diabetes prevention or management is important because the consequences of this metabolic condition can be disastrous. When left unmanaged, diabetes could affect heart health, eye health, and many other things.
Healthy molybdenum levels are associated with a lower risk of diabetes. Additionally, evidence shows that a low concentration of molybdenum is linked to metabolic syndrome (11).
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that may occur together. These include high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol, and other markers that may lead to heart disease.
Since molybdenum can mimic some insulin factors, this trace element could contribute to the management of diabetes (12).
What foods are high in molybdenum?
Some of the best food sources of molybdenum are:
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Legumes such as black-eyed beans
- Leafy vegetables
- Organ meats (especially liver and kidney)
The amount of molybdenum in food depends on the concentration of this element in soil and water for irrigation.
The National Institutes of Health explains that the amount of molybdenum you need daily depends on your age. Adults need 45mcg (micrograms) of molybdenum a day. Pregnant and breastfeeding teens and women need 50mcg a day.
Molybdenum is a trace mineral with huge importance for our health and wellbeing. This trace element has important functions, yet not much is known about it.
The benefits of molybdenum stem from anemia management to antioxidant effects. It can also support male fertility and prostate health.
Fortunately, molybdenum deficiency is rare. It’s entirely possible to get enough molybdenum in a well-balanced diet. Molybdenum is also included in some dietary supplements.
Always keep in mind the amount of molybdenum in food depends on the soil.