Molybdenum deficiency is very rare, and occurs when the body is lacking or cannot break down the mineral molybdenum. This is a mineral that aides in the detoxification of the liver. It also functions as cofactor in many enzymes essential to human body function. The body's molybdenum requirements are relatively low when compared to the other minerals it needs, and molybdenum deficiency does not normally occur in natural settings.
Most cases of molybdenum deficiency occur in those who were born without the enzyme required to break down the mineral, resulting in very rare recessive metabolism disorders. There has only been one well-documented case of acquired molybdenum deficiency. The patient developed rapid heart and respiratory rates, night blindness and eventually became comatose.
Molybdenum requirements are relatively low in humans. In addition, molybdenum can be easily obtained through a diet of beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and certain grains. In fact, lack of molybdenum has never been observed in a completely healthy patient. Those with the greatest risk of developing it are patients being fed intravenously. For those who suffer from molybdenum deficiency, change in diet or taking molybdenum supplements can reverse the condition.
Though the two are connected, molybdenum deficiency should not be confused with molybdenum cofactor deficiency. Molybdenum cofactor deficiency is a rare metabolic disorder in which the body lacks the xanthine dehydrogenase enzyme, the aldehyde oxidase enzyme, and the sulfite oxidase enzyme. These enzymes are all required to metabolize xanthine, a base that is changed into the uric acid needed for healthy brain function. Molybdenum cofactor deficiency can result in severe neurological symptoms including seizures and coma.
Molybdenum as a mineral has several benefits for the human body. It is essential to liver function, helping the liver filter the body’s blood. Molybdenum regulates calcium, magnesium, and copper metabolism. It also facilitates the body’s use of iron, which is necessary to normal growth and development. Molybdenum has been associated with bone growth and lowered risk of tooth decay. Some studies even link this mineral with low risk of stomach and esophagus cancer.
Too much molybdenum can be bad for the body too. Large amount of molybdenum can cause the body to use copper or alter the activity of alkaline phosphatase. Some side effects of too much molybdenum are diarrhea, anemia, and swelling of joints. While getting too much molybdenum is not good for the body, it is just as rare as molybdenum deficiency, because the body quickly excretes the mineral if it is consumed in large quantities.