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Molybdenum imbalance

Category: Illness or disabilities



Introduction and description

Molybdenum is a metal. The human body contains about 0.07 mg of molybdenum per kilogram of weight. It occurs in higher concentrations in the liver and kidneys, where it is found in enzymes, and in lower concentrations in the vertebrae. Molybdenum is also present within human tooth enamel. Molybdenum is thus classified as an essential trace element.   


Both overdosing and deficency can cause health problems: 

Molybdenum overdose can be fatal, it can also cause brain damage. Low levels of prolonged exposure can cause irritation to the eyes and skin. Chronic exposure can cause symptoms including fatigue, headaches and joint pains. It can cause diarrhoea, growth retardation, infertility, low birth weight and gout; it can also affect the lungs, kidneys and liver.

High levels of molybdenum can interfere with the body's uptake of copper, producing copper deficiency. Molybdenum prevents plasma proteins from binding to copper, and it also increases the amount of copper that is excreted in urine.

Molybdenum deficiency - Where molybdenum deficiency occurs the enzymes dependent on it cease to function correctly.  As a consequence there may be :

  • Poisoning - from sulphites, as sulfite oxidase which processes sulphites is deficient. Sulphites may occur in wine and dried fruits.
  • Kidney disease and failure as xanthine oxidoreductase which processes xanthine, reducing it to uric acid is not present. A lack of xanthine oxidase leads to high concentration of xanthine in blood and can cause renal failure. The activity of xanthine oxidase is directly proportional to the amount of molybdenum in the body.
  • Pharmaceutical overdose - aldehyde oxidase plays a very important role in the metabolization of numerous drugs, without it drugs can reach toxic proportions.
  • Inability to grow and thrive - molybdenum is used by mitochondrial amidoxime reductase as such Molybdenum concentrations affect protein synthesis, metabolism and growth.

In general molybdenum deficiency can result in neurological damage because all the resulting toxins cannot be excreted.  It may also lead over time to endothelial dysfunction for the same reasons. Somewhat less proven links have been made to cancer.


Overdose - at overdose levels Molybdemum is behaving as a Heavy metal and thus what we are seeing is Heavy metal poisoning.  If anything the symptoms described above are on the conservative side and are certainly not complete.  Heavy metal poisoning can affect all organs.  There are two main sources of molydenum poisoning:

  • Mining and metal working - Molybdenum readily forms hard, stable carbides in alloys, and for this reason most of world production of the element (about 80%) is in making many types of steel alloys, including high strength alloys and superalloys. Industrially, molybdenum compounds (about 14% of world production of the element) are used in high-pressure and high-temperature applications, as pigments and catalysts. Dusts and fumes, which can be generated by mining or metalworking, can be toxic, especially if ingested (including dust trapped in the sinuses and later swallowed).
  • Mineral supplements and Dietary supplements– unbelievably, given that molybdenum is only needed in trace amounts, it is contained in some over the counter preparations in what amounts to overdose levels 

Deficiency  - can be caused by

  • Non-molybdenum supplemented total parenteral nutrition (complete intravenous feeding) for long periods of time.
  • Surgery - There also appear to be some links with gastric bypass surgery
  • Molybdenum poor soils
  • Sodium tungstate - which is a competitive inhibitor of molybdenum.
  • Dietary tungsten - which reduces the concentration of molybdenum in tissues.  Some mineral supplements contain tungsten even though it has no use in the body
  • Inherited genes – called hereditary molybdenum cofactor deficiency

Related observations