Molybdenum (Mo)

Molybdenum is a silvery-white, hard, transition metal. The name "Molybdenum" is from the Greek word "molybdos" meaning "lead". Scheele discovered it in 1778. It was often confused with graphite and lead ore. Molybdenum is used in alloys, electrodes and catalysts. The World War 2 German artillery piece called "Big Bertha" contains molybdenum as an essential component of its steel. In 1778 Carl Welhelm Scheele conducted research on an ore now known as molybdenite. He concluded that it did not contain lead as was suspected at the time and reported that the mineral contained a new element that he called molybdenum after the mineral. Molybdenum metal was prepared in an impure form in 1782 by Peter Jacob Hjelm.

Molybdenum is considered one of our essential trace minerals. It has been found to be essential in most mammals, as well as in all plants. We obtain it primarily from foods, but since it is often scarce in the earth's crust and therefore deficient in many soils, molybdenum deficiency can be a problem. In fact, it was recently discovered that molybdenum deficiency in the soil in an area of China was responsible for the highest known incidence of esophageal carcinoma over many generations.

Molybdenum is a component of three different enzymes, which is involved in the metabolism of nucleic acids - DNA & RNA - iron as well as food into energy. Molybdenum is a vital part of three important enzyme systems—xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and sulfite oxidase—and so has a vital role in uric acid formation and iron utilization, in carbohydrate metabolism, and sulfite detoxification as well. In the soil and possibly in the body, as the enzyme nitrate reductase, molybdenum can reduce the production or counteract the actions of nitrosamines, known cancer-causing chemicals, especially in the colon. Found more in molybdenum-deficient soils, nitrosamines have been associated with high rates of esophageal cancer.

Molybdenum assists in the breaking down of sulfite toxin build-ups in the body, and may prevent cavities. With these qualities, there might be evidence of antioxidant properties in this nutrient. It assists the body by fighting the nitrosamines, which are associated with cancer, and may help to prevent anemia. It is needed for normal cell function and nitrogen metabolism.

Molybdenum deficiencies in older males have also been linked to impotence and may be of value in fighting mouth and gum disorders. Molybdenum is part of sulfite oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down sulfites. Sulfites are found in protein food as well as chemical preservatives in certain foods and drugs. Should your body not be able to break down these sulfites, a toxic build-up results, and your body may react with an allergic reaction. These allergic reactions can be respiratory problems such as asthma and others. Molybdenum is also part of xanthine oxidase and aldehyde oxidase - both involved in the body's production of genetic material and proteins. Xanthine oxidase also helps the body to oxidize purines and pyrimidines, and produce uric acid, an important waste product.

Molybdenum may help prevent anemia by helping mobilize iron, provided there are sufficient iron stores. The suggestions that it protects the teeth from dental caries and that it prevents sexual impotence are not yet supported by definitive research. Molybdenum deficiency may reduce uric acid formation; this was not previously thought to be a problem, but it may be important to supplement molybdenum to maintain uric acid levels in midnormal range for the antioxidant function as well as possible others.

Deficiencies of molybdenum are identified by the absence of the three molybdenum enzymes. The deficiency of this element and the metabolic disorders are accompanied by abnormal excretion of sulfur metabolites, low uric acid concentrations, and elevated hypoxanthine and xanthine excretion. The absences of sulfite oxidase in metabolic disorder can lead to death at an early age. High rates of esophageal cancer have been reported in regions where the soil levels of molybdenum are low as well as vitamin C intake - although this does not clinically prove that molybdenum might be involved with prevention of certain cancers.

In nature, molybdenum is found as part of other metal complexes. In the soil, it serves as a catalyst to the nitrogen-fixing process; thus, decreased soil molybdenum can lead to deficient plant growth. The food levels of molybdenum depend largely on soil content. The amount in food may be increased a hundredfold with molybdenum-rich soil; in certain areas, hard water may contain some molybdenum. Soft water and refined foods contain hardly any. Whole grains, particularly the germ, usually have substantial amounts; oats, buckwheat, and wheat germ are some examples of grains containing molybdenum. Many vegetables and legumes are also good sources; these include lima beans, green beans, lentils, potatoes, spinach and other dark leafy greens, cauliflower, peas, and soybeans. Brewer's yeast also has some, and liver and organ meats are often fairly high in molybdenum.