The trace mineral molybdenum is an essential coenzyme (non-protein portion of an enzyme) in three of the body’s detoxifying enzyme systems, aldehyde oxidase, xanthine oxidase and sulphite oxidase. Aldehyde oxidase is responsible for the oxidative breakdown and detoxification of various types of aldehydes (see detoxification below). Xanthine oxidase catalyses the formation of uric acid, which is the end-product of the metabolism of the purines derived from nucleic acids. Xanthine oxidase also facilitates the conversion of the ferrous form of iron into the ferric form. In this respect, molybdenum is important to the utilisation of dietary and supplemental iron for the formation of haemoglobin. Sulphite oxidase aids the detoxification of sulphites, which are commonly used as food preservatives and bleaching agents (see detoxification below). Other molybdenum-dependent enzyme reactions catalyse metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.


Molybdenum is a critical detoxification nutrient due, in part, to its role as a co-factor in the enzyme systems, aldehyde oxidase and sulphite oxidase. As mentioned above, aldehyde oxidase is responsible for the detoxification of various types of aldehydes. The body can be exposed to aldehydes from internal sources (i.e. the metabolism of alcohol) or external sources (such as tobacco smoke). If they are not neutralised, aldehydes are dangerous cross-linking agents which can damage the integrity of tissues and cause scar tissue to form in various organs (i.e. the liver, lungs, skin, etc). For example, aldehydes derived from alcohol metabolism and tobacco smoke are associated with liver cirrhosis and emphysema respectively. Aldehydes also accelerate the process of skin wrinkling. Aldehyde formation from alcohol metabolism may also be responsible for some of the symptoms of hangover. By aiding sulphite detoxification, molybdenum may be of special value for those individuals who are sensitivity to sulphite ingestion or exposure. Sulphites are commonly used as preserving agents for foods and beverages such as dried fruits, wine and beer. Sulphur dioxide is a common sulphite used in food preservation. Sulphite sensitivity is especially common and dangerous in asthmatics and ingestion may precipitate severe asthma attacks in susceptible people. Other sensitive individuals may experience skin rash or other allergic symptoms. Molybdenum may also be of value (especially in tandem with zinc) in helping to reverse toxic overload of copper, such as that which occurs in Wilson’s Disease.


Molybdenum is an essential component of tooth enamel, and epidemiological research indicates that there is a reduced rate of dental caries (cavities) in areas that have the highest intake of this mineral. It has also been reported that fluoride-fortified drinking water is less effective for protection against tooth decay than water that is fortified with both fluoride and molybdenum.

Potential Applications

•        Detoxification (general)

•        Protection against aldehyde-related alcohol damage (certain hangover symptoms, cirrhosis)

•        Protection against aldehyde-related tobacco damage (emphysema, premature skin wrinkling)

•        Protection against sulphite sensitivity

•        Preventing tooth decay

•        Wilson’s Disease (especially in combination with zinc supplementation)

•        Iron deficiency anaemia


•        None established

Common Supplement Forms/Sources

•        Sodium molybdate

•        Molybdenum glycinate

•        Molybdenum amino acid chelate

•        Molybdenum ascorbate

Common Food Sources

•        Lentils

•        Peas

•        Whole grains

•          Spinach

•        Cauliflower

•          Meat

•         Liver

•        Garlic

•        Leafy green vegetables

Contraindications/Cautions/lnteractions/Toxicity Concerns

•        Although toxicity is unlikely from supplemental molybdenum, possible toxicity signs and symptoms from excessive molybdenum exposure or ingestion include, diarrhoea, gout, copper deficiency, joint pain or impaired growth.

•        Molybdenum is involved in the formation of uric acid, therefore individuals who suffering with or are highly prone to gout should consult a physician before taking molybdenum supplements. Daily doses of 10-15mg of molybdenum may cause gout or symptoms similar to gout in some people.

•        The higher the intake of molybdenum, the greater amount of copper is excreted in the urine. Copper status should be checked periodically if one is regularly taking high doses of molybdenum.

Agents/Factors Which Deplete Levels, Impair Absorption and/or Inhibit Activity

•        Sulphur (high intakes)

•        Sulfites

•        Copper (high intakes)

Possible Signs/Symptoms Associated with Deficiency

•        Impaired sulphite detoxification (i.e. asthma-like attacks/shortness of breath, skin rash, headache, rapid heart rate, nausea)

•        Impaired aldehyde detoxification (i.e. increased sensitivity to alcohol ingestion)

•        Tooth decay

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