Molybdenum: Reference and Dietary Sources


In this article, we describe:

  • the major purposes of this specific nutrient in the human body, 
  • its experimentally confirmed health uses, 
  • conventional ways to estimate nutrient status,
  • nutrient’s toxicities and deficiencies,
  • experimentally confirmed and approved levels of the nutrient intake for different demographics,
  • dietary sources of the nutrient.


Molybdenum is an essential trace element that is a structural constituent of molybdopterin, a cofactor synthesized by the body and required for the function of enzymes metabolizing sulfur-containing amino acids, purines and pyrimidines, as well as drugs and toxins.

Molybdenum appears to be absorbed via a passive nonmediated process. The kidneys are the main regulators of molybdenum levels in the body and are responsible for its excretion. Molybdenum, in the form of molybdopterin, is stored in the liver, kidney, adrenal glands, and bone.

Molybdenum deficiency is rare and status is not assessed in clinical settings, except in people with a genetic mutation that prevents the synthesis of molybdopterin and therefore of sulfite oxidase. Urinary molybdenum does not reflect molybdenum status. Acute molybdenum toxicity is rare, but it can occur with industrial mining and metalworking exposure. 

Nutri-IQ tool provides easy and convenient way to analyze patient’s bothersome symptoms and relate them to nutrients inadequacy (deficiency or toxicity).

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Molybdenum

Birth to 6 months2 mcg*2 mcg*
7–12 months3 mcg*3 mcg*
1–3 years17 mcg17 mcg
4–8 years22 mcg22 mcg
9–13 years34 mcg34 mcg
14–18 years43 mcg43 mcg50 mcg50 mcg
19+ years45 mcg45 mcg50 mcg50 mcg

*AI, based on mean molybdenum intakes of infants fed primarily human milk.

Sources of Molybdenum

The top sources of molybdenum are legumes, cereal grains, leafy vegetables, beef liver, and milk. Milk and cheese products are the main sources of molybdenum for teens and children.

The amount of molybdenum in food depends on the amount of molybdenum in the soil and in the water used for irrigation. Drinking water generally contains only small amounts of molybdenum. The amount of information on molybdenum levels in foods is quite limited.

Selected Food Sources of Molybdenum

(mcg) per
Boiled black-eyed peas, ½ cup288640
Pan-fried beef liver, (3 ounces)104231
Boiled lima beans, ½ cup104231
Plain yogurt, 1 cup2658
Milk, 1 cup2249
Baked potato, 1 medium1636
Cheerios cereal, ½ cup1533
Shredded wheat cereal, ½ cup1533
Banana, medium1533
White rice, cooked, ½ cup1329
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice1227
Dry roasted peanuts, 1 ounce1124
Roasted chicken, 3 ounces920
Soft-boiled lard egg, soft-boiled920
Boiled spinach, ½ cup818
Pan-fried ground beef, 3 ounces818
Dry roasted pecans, 1 ounce818
Sweet yellow corn, cooked, ½ cup613
Cheddar cheese, 1 ounce613
Canned in oil tuna, 3 ounces511
Boiled without skin potato, ½ cup49
Orange, medium49
Boiled green beans, ½ cup37
Carrots, raw, ½ cup24
Asparagus, boiled, ½ cup24
  • *DV = Daily Value.
  • The DV for molybdenum is 45 mcg for adults and children age 4 years and older.
  • Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.


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