Molybdenum is a chemical element with the atomic number 42. Its name comes from the Greek word “molybdos,” which means lead. Molybdenum’s reflects the fact that its ores were often confused for lead ores in ancient times. The Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele first identified molybdenum as a distinct element in 1778. The Swedish chemist Peter Jacob Hjelm isolated molybdenum for the first time in 1781.
Molybdenum had little commercial value for the next century due to its scarcity and the expense of isolating the pure metal. Steel alloys containing molybdenum became practical in 1906, when William D. Coolidge developed a technique for making molybdenum ductile. The first uses for molybdenum were in light bulb filaments, which also contained tungsten.
The primary commercial source of molybdenum is the mineral molybdenite. The most abundant dietary sources of molybdenum are livers, especially beef, lamb, and pork. Vegetable sources of molybdenum include green beans, sunflower seeds, lentils, and cereal grains.
Molybdenum is an essential nutrient for all animals. Its most significant role is to provide an active site for many enzymes. At least 50 enzymes containing molybdenum had been discovered by 2002, and this number is still increasing. The best-known molybdenum enzymes include sulfite oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and xanthine oxidase. Molybdenum glycinate is a common method of providing molybdenum in a biologically available form.
The benefits of molybdenum glycinate in health supplements primarily involve its effect on sulfur compounds. Additional uses include support for red blood cells, regulation of copper levels, and detoxification.
Many foods contain sulfites as a result of processing techniques. Molybdenum can help to manage a sensitivity to sulfites.
Aldehyde oxidase is a molybdenum enzyme that can detoxify aldehyde, which is a metabolic waste product.
Molybdenum is used in the transport of iron in the body. This effect may help to support healthy oxygenation levels in the blood, especially in women.
Tetrathiomolybdate is a molybdenum compound that helps to regulate the amount of copper in the body. This function may be helpful for managing the signs of copper toxicity.
A deficiency of molybdenum is rare in humans due to its very low nutritional requirement. The recommended dietary allowance of molybdenum for adults is only 45 micrograms per day, and most people receive much more than this from dietary sources. Complete intravenous feeding is one of the conditions most likely to result in a molybdenum deficiency. The most common signs of a molybdenum deficiency include a sensitivity to sulfites, rapid resting heart rate and night blindness.
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