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What Are the Health Benefits of Molybdenum?

Molybdenum, an essential mineral, plays an important role in your body's biological functions. Although this trace mineral is available in liquid and capsule form, food is the main source for most people. Molybdenum is commonly found in legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, leafy vegetables, grains, nuts and liver. Mineral water or "hard" tap water may also contain molybdenum.

May Protect Against Cancer

Molybdenum is a necessary soil component for preventing the growth of cancer-producing agents, known as nitrosamines, in plant foods. An article published in "Cancer Research" in August 1980 noted that research conducted in the Taihang Mountain Range area in northern China concerning cancer-causing agents responsible for numerous cases of esophageal cancer determined that deficiencies of trace elements, such as molybdenum, in the soil play a possible role in the high incidence of cancer. It's thought that when there's a deficiency of molybdenum uptake in plants, nitrosamines are produced because nitrate reductase -- an enzyme -- can't perform properly without its molybdenum co-factor.

Catalyst for Enzymes

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Molybdenum helps to jump-start four of your body's important enzymes. It works as a co-factor for sulfite oxidase, which is necessary for metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids; xanthine oxidase, which contributes to antioxidant capacity of the blood; aldehyde oxidase, which joins with xanthine oxidase in the metabolism of drugs and toxins; and mitochondrial amidoxime-reducing component, which accelerates the removal of certain toxic substances.

Fights Inflammatory and Autoimmune Diseases

Tetrathiomolybdate, a form of molybdenum with four sulfur atoms, lowers copper levels in the body, which makes it effective in the treatment of fibrotic, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. A study published in the "Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry" in May 2006 noted that in animal studies tetrathiomolybdate dramatically inhibits pulmonary and liver fibrosis, which is thickening and scarring of tissue, helps prevent liver damage from acetaminophen and reduces heart damage from doxorubicin, a bacterial antibiotic. Tetrathiomolybdate also shows a partially protective effect against diabetes.

Safety Concerns

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The recommended dosage of molybdenum should be safe and effective. Ingesting excessive amounts, however, could in theory lead to copper deficiency, according to New York University Langone Medical Center. The center advises that people with serious kidney disease should consult a physician before taking molybdenum or any other supplement. The daily value set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is 75 micrograms based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet.