Molybdenum, also known as
sodium molybdate, ammonium molybdate, is a Group 6 chemical element with the
symbol Mo and atomic number 42. The name is from Neo-Latin 'Molybdaenum' and
from Ancient Greek 'molybdos', meaning lead, since its ores were
confused with lead ores.
Molybdenum is an element that is
present in very small amounts in the body. It is involved in many
important biological processes including development of the nervous
system, waste processing in the kidneys and energy production in
cells. It acts as co-factor to a number of important enzymes needed
for nutrition, fertility and immunity.
Molybdenum helps the body manufacture enzymes,
such as the ones needed for the use of the energy from the fats and
carbohydrates, as well as helping the body make use of the iron
ingested which sustains mental alertness. Molybdenum is also
essential for blood sugar balance.
Molybdenum is an essential element in human nutrition, but its
precise function and interactions with other chemicals in the body
are not yet well understood. Some evidence suggests that too little
molybdenum in the diet may be responsible for some health problems
such as Wilson's disease in which the body cannot process copper.
Eating foods containing molybdenum can help to relieve a number of conditions such as allergies, asthma, concentration problems, diabetes, infertility, kidney malfunction, gout, dental cavities and tooth decay and sexual impotence. Links to all these health disorders can be found below under associated subjects.
It is unlikely that anyone
with a balanced diet will suffer from a molybdenum deficiency but
the molybdenum content of food depends on the soil content of the
mineral. As with
chromium, the soil content of molybdenum is often
very low. Humans require very small amounts of molybdenum, and
deficiency appears to happen only under the rarest of circumstances.
For example, molybdenum deficiency may appear in a person fed
entirely through the veins for a very long time or in a person with
a genetic problem in which the body cannot use the molybdenum that
is eaten in foods. Avoiding sulphur-rich foods may lead to a deficiency of molybdenum.
Natural sources of molybdenum
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