Molybdenum is a trace element found in foods, such as legumes, leafy vegetables, grains, milk, and beef liver. Beans, particularly lima beans, peas, and small white beans, contain especially high amounts of molybdenum. It is considered an essential nutrient, which means it is required for biochemical processes within the human body, but is not made endogenously. Genetic mutations are the only reported common causes of molybdenum deficiencies. These gene-related molybdenum deficiencies have been associated with certain neurological and cardiac changes.
The body requires molybdenum for the function of four enzymes. One enzyme, sulfite oxidase, located in the mitochondria helps to complete the final step of oxidation for the sulfur amino acids cysteine and methionine, two important structures in the biochemical pathways associated with cellular health and antioxidative status.
Molybdenum is required for the functioning of aldehyde oxidase, which is found in the liver. Aldehyde oxidase is critical for phase 1 drug metabolism. Another enzyme, xanthine oxidase, helps support cellular health by helping to prevent certain DNA mutations.
The enzyme mitochondrial amidoxime-reducing component (mARC) has been discovered relatively recently. Although the importance of mARC within the body is still being elucidated, it was recently found to help support certain aspects of liver health. A laboratory study determined that variants in mARC helped support the down-regulation of fibrogenic pathways. The researchers reported that these variants may help provide a protective effect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
A form of molybdenum as tetrathiomolybdate forms a strong complex with copper and protein. Clinically, tetrathiomolybdate has been used to treat certain copper-related toxicities. The copper-chelating qualities of tetrathiomolybdate have been recently studied for their potential to support cellular health. Certain laboratory studies have indicated that tetrathiomolybdate may help support healthy cellular regeneration. Other preclinical trials have explored the potential of tetrathiomolybdate to help support the attenuation of angiogenesis in certain settings. An animal study reported tumor reduction or stabilization in 9 of 13 animals. Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials have also explored the potential to support biochemical markers for angiogenesis and cellular health. Tetrathiomolybdate may also help support the body’s response to inflammation and may help inhibit profibrotic activity; some clinical trials have explored its potential to support musculoskeletal health. Molybdenum toxicity in humans is reported to be relatively rare. However, molybdenum toxicity may involve gout-like symptoms and certain serious neurological symptoms.
More research is needed regarding the potential of molybdenum to support health. Evidence suggests that molybdenum may support certain aspects of cellular functioning and liver health.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT