Molybdenum is important in enzymes and may offer cancer-protection

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Molybdenum in a nutshell:
Molybdenum is necessary in many enzymes. It may also help remove excess copper from our bodies, which may then help prevent cancerous tumors growing their own blood supply.

Best source of Molybdenum for Juicers
It’s not really possible to be deficient in molybdenum, so we don’t recommend any particular fruits or vegetables. This element will be in all of your juices as it is so widespread in nature.

Molybdenum is a trace mineral many of us have never heard of and most of us have trouble pronouncing. It is an essential component of at least 50 enzymes in the human body and a key element in preventing certain kinds of cancer.

Alternate names: Molybdenum.

What Is Molybdenum?

Molybdenum is a metallic element that shares with chromium a unique chemical property. While the most common metallic elements like sodium and potassium can form just a single bond with another element and some other minerals like calcium and magnesium can form just two, molybdenum and chromium can form up to four bonds. This enables molybdenum and chromium to become involved in complex chemical processes that form unique enzymes and cofactors.

Molybdenum ore is dark, shiny, and flexible. It has the consistency of graphite, the kind of carbon used to make pencil lead. Molybdenum compounds in the soil are absorbed by plants to enter the food chain, but not all soils contain large amounts of molybdenum. From China to India to Iran, soils are naturally deficient in molybdenum and people eating only local foods tend to get molybdenum deficiency diseases.

What Does Molybdenum Do in the Human Body?

Bacteria use a chemical combination of molybdenum, iron, and sulfur, to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere to make ammonia, which in turn they and surrounding plants can use to make proteins. Higher plants use molybdenum to help them use other kinds of nitrogen compounds besides ammonia to make proteins. Animals, including humans, use molybdenum to process the individual amino acids and bases of DNA they digest out of food.

There are about 50 enzymes in the human body that require molybdenum. Three of them are especially important for human health.

  • Sulfite oxidase is especially active in the heart, kidneys, and livers. It takes an electron from sulfites as they are transformed into sulfates, and transfers that electron so it can be used to make stored energy as ADP becomes ATP. This enzyme also detoxifies sulfites used as food preservatives, especially in dried fruit, cellophane-wrapped pastries, and wine. Without enough molybdenum to make sulfite oxidase, many people experience allergic reactions to sulfites.

  • Nitrite oxidase is especially active in the gastrointestinal tract. It detoxifies nitrites by transforming them into nitrates, without the production of stored energy.

  • Xanthine oxidase is important for the metabolism of a class of food substances known as purines. This group of chemicals includes adenine (A) and guanine (G) that are used to make DNA (A-G-C-T). Since all natural food contains DNA, xanthine oxidase is critical to good health. It is activated by iron and deactivated by copper. Overactivity of xanthine oxidase produces too much urea, which in turn can form the uric acid crystals that cause bone and joint pain in gout.

Molybdenum also combines with sulfur-bearing amino acids to trap excess copper. Since excess copper is involved in angiogenesis, the process by which a cancerous tumor grows its own blood supply, molybdenum is thought to be cancer-protective.

What Happens When We Don't Get Enough Molybdenum?

There's essentially no such thing as molybdenum deficiency in healthy people. All food contains molybdenum, and everyone who can consume ordinary food manages to get enough of the element to avoid molybdenum deficiency diseases. The only people who may not get enough molybdenum for survival are those on total parenteral nutrition, getting all their nutrients through an IV. If molybdenum is left out of the nutrient mix, headache may be followed by seizures, coma, and death. Fewer than 100 people in the world have suffered this condition.

How Can We Be Sure of Getting Enough Molybdenum?

green-beansIn the United States, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set RDAs (recommended daily allowances) of molybdenum as follows:

  • 2 micrograms a day for infants up to six months of age,

  • 3 micrograms a day for infants six to twelve months of age,

  • 17 micrograms a day for children aged 1 to 3,

  • 22 micrograms a day for children aged 4 to 8,

  • 34 micrograms a day for children aged 9 to 13,

  • 43 micrograms a day for teens age 14 to 18, and

  • 45 micrograms a day for adults, except 50 micrograms a day for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Older adults do not need any more molybdenum than younger adults.

The Standard American Diet provides on average 76 micrograms of molybdenum per day for women and 109 micrograms of molybdenum per day for men, well above the level needed to prevent deficiency diseases. Peas, beans, and legumes are the best sources of molybdenum.

Certain areas of China have both unusually low amounts of molybdenum in the soil and exceptionally high rates of cancers of the esophagus and liver. The problem may be molybdenum deficiency, but it may also be the high amounts of nitrites used to preserve food.

Certain areas of Armenia have unusually high amounts of molybdenum in the soil. In these locations, a typical diet provides about 1,500 micrograms of molybdenum per day, at least 30 times more than is required to prevent deficiency. In these locations rates of gout are extremely high.

Should You Take a Molybdenum Supplement?

Advocates of "nutritional insurance" often recommend taking a daily multivitamin-multimineral formula that provides at least 75 micrograms of molybdenum. This definitely won't hurt. You will probably never know whether it helped.

Molybdenum supplements have been tried as a treatment for metastatic cancerous tumors. The idea is that molybdenum binds copper so that tumors cannot use it to make the angiogenesis factors that help them grow their own blood vessels and spread to other parts of the body. In one trial, very high doses of a form of molybdenum called tetrathiomolybdate (TM), up to 120 mg (120,000 micrograms) per day seemed to slow the progression of cancer or even lead to shrinking of tumors in some patients. Since such a large amount of molybdenum can cause gout or interfere with medications, however, this is not something any cancer patients should try on their own.

TM is also used to treat a hereditary condition called Wilson's disease, which causes excessive accumulation of copper in the body. Again, this is a condition that can only be treated under medical supervision. You should not use TM to treat Wilson's disease on your own.

About Andy Williams

In a processed food culture, simply eating may not be enough. Dr. Andy Williams is a scientist with a strong interest in Juicing and how it can supply the body with the nutrients it needs to thrive in modern society. You can subscribe to his free daily paper called Juicing The Rainbow and follow him on Facebook orTwitter.

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