Molybdenum (Sodium Molybdate)
Unfortunately, scientists know more about the role of molybdenum (Sodium Molybdate) in the environment and in non-human organisms than they do about the role of molybdenum in human health. Still, this mineral has been shown to be required for the activity of at least seven enzymes in our body, and numerous body systems rely on these enzymes for support
Supporting research & information
Our understanding of molybdenum and human health did not begin with research on humans, but on soil, water, and microorganisms. Molybdenum has long been known to play a central role in soil chemistry, and in ocean chemistry as well. Some of the most fundamental components in soil and water chemistry—including basic interactions involving carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur—are significantly impacted by molybdenum and its role in chemical events. Not surprisingly, the molybdenum content of our food is significantly dependent on the soil in which foods are grown and the water supplied during the raising of the plants (or animals).
Role in health:
Unfortunately, scientists know more about the role of molybdenum in the environment and in non-human organisms than they do about the role of molybdenum in human health. Still, this mineral has been shown to be required for the activity of at least seven enzymes in our body, and numerous body systems rely on these enzymes for support.
Sulfur is an element of surprising importance in our health. It's a unique part of the protein in our food because most foods contain at least small amounts of sulfur amino acids, including taurine, methionine, and cysteine. Sulfur is critical in our ability to detoxify unwanted contaminants, and many contaminants in our food cannot be eliminated from our body without the help of sulfur. This element is also essential in our body's antioxidant protection, and many of our most critical antioxidant molecules—including glutathione—are sulfur-containing. Sulfur also plays a unique role in the structure of our connective tissue, through its incorporation into molecules like glucosamine sulfate and chondroiton sulfate. So as you can see, this mineral is truly "whole body" in its health support role.
The same conclusion could be made about molybdenum as well, based on its required role in the activity of an enzyme called sulfite oxidase (SO). The role of SO is to take one form of sulfur (sulfite) and convert it into another form (sulfate). While this step sounds relatively simple, it is actually critical for keeping sulfur moving around in our body as intended and allowing all of the activities described in the paragraph above to take place. In other words, we suspect a role for molybdenum in support of liver detoxification, antioxidant support, connect tissue development, and other aspects of our health due to the widespread important of sulfur balance throughout our body.
While SO exits in many different organ systems in our body, two especially important places are our liver and brain. In the liver, SO is known to play a key role in support of detoxification. Our liver cells cannot do their job as detoxifiers if there is too much build-up of sulfite and not enough availability of sulfate, and SO helps prevent that problematic situation from occurring. (Within this context of detoxification, it is also important to note that molybdenum is a cofactor for the enzyme aldehyde oxidase, which is critical during the first phase of liver cell detoxification, called phase I.)
In the brain, we know that babies born with disruptions in molybdenum metabolism can have SO disruptions as well and can experience severe brain- and nervous system-related problems for this reason. The details here can get confusing, but they center on the role of a molecule called molybdenum cofactor, or Moco. Moco is the compound formed when molybdenum is combined with a molecule called pyranopterin. This molybdenum-containing compound turns out to be the form in which molybdenum helps to activate SO. While it is rare for babies to be born without the ability to make Moco, when this situation does occur, it can result in dramatic problems.
There are no small-scale or large-scale studies on humans to show whether dietary deficiency of molydenum can cause problems in detoxification, antioxidant protection, or brain and nervous system function. At the very least, we would suspect that over long periods of time (measured in years), very low intake of molybdenum would put people at risk of problems involving imbalanced sulfur metabolism. But there are simply no studies in this area. In addition, most of the studies that we have seen estimating dietary intake of molybdenum fall into the range of 80-300 micrograms per day, and with the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendation of 45 micrograms for adults 19 and older, you can see how evidence about dietary deficiency of this mineral might be difficult to obtain.
Other roles in health support:
Because of its known role as a cofactor for the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ADH), molybdenum is likely to play an important role in nervous system metabolism, and particularly metabolism of the nervous system messaging molecules (neurotransmitters) epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and melatonin. ADH enzyme activity is critical for the breakdown of the neurotransmitters listed above, and the rate of breakdown of these molecules is closely related to their rate of synthesis and availability for nervous system function.
Molybdenum is also known to be required in formation of unique proteins called amidoxime reducing component proteins, or marc. These proteins play important roles in mitochondrial function. (Mitochondria are energy-producing components in cells that participate in oxygen-based energy production, also called aerobic energy production.) However, this area of study is in its infancy and we are quite a way from practical conclusions involving dietary molybdenum intake and this aspect of mitochondrial function.
Sodium molybdate can help correct a sodium deficiency by adding extra sodium to your body; however, sodium molybdate is ingested in such small amounts its contribution to your overall sodium stores is probably negligible. Once in your body, the molybdenum molecule is cleaved off of the sodium molecule and can have positive effects on your health. According to Cancer.org, molybdenum can be used to treat rare metabolic diseases involving copper deficiencies. Molybdenum may also have antioxidant and anticancer properties, but not enough research is available to confirm these claims.
How Does Molybdenum Help the Body?
Interesting Facts on Molybdenum
What Are the Health Benefits of Molybdenum?
Molybdenum Rich Foods