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What is molybdenum and what does it do?

Molybdenum is a mineral that you need to stay healthy. Your body uses molybdenum to process proteins and genetic material like DNA. Molybdenum also helps break down drugs and toxic substances that enter the body.

Molybdenum is an essential trace element that is naturally present in many foods and is also available as a dietary supplement. Molybdenum is a structural constituent of molybdopterin, a cofactor synthesized by the body and required for the function of four enzymes: sulfite oxidase, xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component (mARC). These enzymes metabolize sulfur-containing amino acids and heterocyclic compounds including purines and pyrimidines [1,2]. Xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and mARC are also involved in metabolizing drugs and toxins [3-6].

Molybdenum appears to be absorbed via a passive nonmediated process, though where absorption occurs in the intestinal tract is not known [1]. Adults absorb 40% to 100% of dietary molybdenum [2,7-10]. Infants absorb almost all of the molybdenum in breast milk or formula [11,12].

The kidneys are the main regulators of molybdenum levels in the body and are responsible for its excretion [1,2]. Molybdenum, in the form of molybdopterin, is stored in the liver, kidney, adrenal glands, and bone [2,7,13].

How much molybdenum do I need?

The amount of molybdenum you need depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts are listed below in micrograms (mcg).



  Birth to 6 months

2 mcg  

  Infants 7–12 months

3 mcg  

  Children 1–3 years

17 mcg  

  Children 4–8 years

22 mcg  

  Children 9–13 years

34 mcg  

  Teens 14–18 years

43 mcg  

  Adults 19 years and older

45 mcg  

  Pregnant teens and women

50 mcg  

  Breastfeeding teens and women

50 mcg  

What happens if I don’t get enough molybdenum?

Molybdenum deficiency is very rare in the United States. It happens only in people with a very rare genetic disorder called molybdenum cofactor deficiency. This disorder prevents the body from using molybdenum. It can cause seizures and severe brain damage that usually leads to death within days after birth.

What are some effects of magnesium on health?

Whether molybdenum affects any disease or health condition isn’t known.

Can molybdenum be harmful?

Molybdenum from food and beverages doesn’t cause any harm. However, people exposed to high levels of molybdenum in the air and soil, such as miners and metalworkers, sometimes develop achy joints, gout-like symptoms, and high blood levels of uric acid (a substance that is normally excreted in your urine).
The daily upper limits for molybdenum include intakes from all sources—food, beverages, and supplements—and are listed below in micrograms (mcg).



  Birth to 12 months

Not established  

  Children 1–3 years

300 mcg  

  Children 4–8 years

600 mcg  

  Children 9–13 years

1,100 mcg  

  Teens 14–18 years

1,700 mcg  


2,000 mcg  

Where can I find out more about molybdenum?

• For more information on molybdenum:
• For more advice on choosing dietary supplements:
• For information about building a healthy dietary pattern:


1. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.

2. Eckhert CD. Trace elements. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, et al., eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014:252-3.

3. Beedham C. Molybdenum hydroxylases as drug-metabolizing enzymes. Drug Metab Rev 1985;16:119-56. [PubMed abstract]

4. Terao M; Romão MJ, Leimkühler S, et al. Structure and function of mammalian aldehyde oxidases. Arch Toxicol 2016;90:753-80. [PubMed abstract]

5. Wahl B, Reichmann D, Niks D, et al. Biochemical and spectroscopic characterization of the human mitochondrial amidoxime reducing components hmARC-1 and hmARC-2 suggests the existence of a new molybdenum enzyme family in eukaryotes. J Biol Chem 2010;285:37847-59. [PubMed abstract]

6. Ott G, Havemeyer A, Clement B. The mammalian molybdenum enzymes of mARC. J Biol Inorg Chem 2015;20:265-75. [PubMed abstract]

7. Turnlund JR, Keyes WR, Peiffer GL. Molybdenum absorption, excretion, and retention studied with stable isotopes in young men at five intakes of dietary molybdenum. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;62:790-6. [PubMed abstract]

8. Werner E, Giussani A, Heinrichs U, et al. 1998. Biokinetic studies in humans with stable isotopes as tracers. Part 2: Uptake of molybdenum from aqueous solutions and labelled foodstuffs. Isotopes Environ Health Stud 34(3):297-301. 10.1080/10256019808234063. [PubMed abstract]

9. Novotny JA, Turnlund JR. Molybdenum kinetics in men differ during molybdenum depletion and repletion. J Nutr 2006;136:953-7.

10. Novotny JA, Turnlund JR. Molybdenum intake influences molybdenum kinetics in men. J Nutr 2007;137:37-42. [PubMed abstract]

11. Sievers E, Dorner K, Garbe-Schonberg D, et al. Molybdenum metabolism: Stable isotope studies in infancy. J Trace Elem Med Biol 2001;15:185-91. [PubMed abstract]

12. Sievers E, Oldigs HD, Dorner K, et al. Molybdenum balance studies in premature male infants. Eur J Pediatr 2001;160):109-13. [PubMed abstract]

13. Turnlund JR, Keyes WR, Peiffer GL, et al. Molybdenum absorption, excretion, and retention studied with stable isotopes in young men during depletion and repletion. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61:1102-9. [PubMed abstract]

14. Health information data from U.S. National Institutes of Health

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