If you were ever invited to join a conversation about molybdenum nutrition, then you would be quite forgiven if the words didn’t exactly roll off your tongue. Molybdenum is one of the least familiar nutritional elements, yet scientists say that it is essential for all living things. This mineral is found in high concentrations in the liver and kidneys and in lower concentrations in the vertebrae. Overall, molybdenum is found in small amounts in the body, but it does fundamentally important things.
Your Body Pilot
Molybdenum takes care of the normal functioning of your body’s system in a number of ways. You need molybdenum to help metabolize fats and carbohydrates. Molybdenum also helps to mobilize iron from the liver, which can prevent anemia.
Molybdenum is found in tooth enamel. Some scientists say that this mineral may help prevent tooth decay. One study suggests that molybdenum and flouride may be more helpful in maintaining dental health than just fluoride alone.
The U.S. government set the recommended dietary allowance of molybdenum at 45 micrograms, with an RDA of 50 micrograms for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Dietary sources include pork, lamb, beef, green beans, lima beans, dark green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, wheat flour, lentils, cucumbers and cereal grains.
What is curious about molybdenum nutrition is that it’s not so important which vegetable you choose as a source, but rather the soil from which the food came. Scientists have some documentation as to where the geographical differences lie. If you’re in the United States, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re getting enough molybdenum in the food you eat (unless you have a rare medical disorder or must be fed through the veins for a long period). That is because the U.S. has an ample supply of moylbdenum in its soil. Humans require only a small amount of molybdenum to keep the system going; instances of molybdenum deficiency are rare.
In a region that stretches from northern China to Iran, however, there are scant amounts of molybdenum in the soil and scientists believe there may be a link there between molybdenum deficiency and cancer.
Molybdenum’s nutritional effect on the body is still a story in the making. Studies in mice show that this trace mineral might enhance the body’s response to drugs that are used to treat breast cancer. More evidence is needed to determine if the effects would be similar in humans. Molybdenum as a chemical element has been known for hundreds of years, but understanding its implications in the human body are more recent.
So far, investigations claim molybdenum may behave as a cancer-fighting antioxidant that protects cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Time and further scientific studies will tell the full story of molybdenum nutrition benefits.
Molybdenum is sold as a supplement, but the medical advice is to stay away from these. A more likely health risk is not that you’re deficient, but that you may take a dangerous excess as a result. Get clearance from your doctor before making such a move. Remember that molybdenum deficiencies are very rare. Most practitioners do not recommend molybdenum supplements.