Thursday, January 18, 2018

Unfortunate lack of knowledge about molybdenum in the medical field

Last weekend, I told a group of people about how molybdenum has been preventing nausea and vomiting from gastrointestinal viruses in lots of people. The listeners seemed interested except for one woman. She said, "Isn't that a heavy metal?" (Yes, as are iron, zinc, and selenium.) She reacted with horror when I said I'd given it to my children. "You gave it to your toddler?" (Yes, this oh-so-sketchy substance which is an added ingredient in Pediasure. I gave it to my toddler as-needed and at doses around the established tolerable upper intake level.) My attempts to protest in favor of molybdenum's nutritional value, for it is in many foods and has a set Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), were ineffective. And here's the strangest part of the story: she is a physician.

Molybdenum is essential--in the right amounts--to human health, and she apparently knew nothing about it except that it was a heavy metal. I thought she might just be an outlier. Surely her lack of information about molybdenum is not representative of what's going on widely in medicine, right? Unfortunately, she appears to have much company in ignorance about molybdenum. I'll tell a similar such story about another doctor (at least, it's statistically unlikely to be the same doctor) in my next post.

I'm not trying to be harsh toward anyone. Ignorance is a normal state of affairs until something has been learned. After all, I was totally ignorant of molybdenum two years ago. I still remember seeing it listed as a nutrient on a webpage about barley and thinking, "Molybdenum? What's that?" (And I definitely didn't know how to pronounce it. It took a couple of months before I could easily say it, which was rather comical when I tried to tell people about it.) I addressed my ignorance by seeking out more information about molybdenum. I clicked on the first webpage's hyperlink to a page on molybdenum, and as I looked at the second page's list of foods considered good sources of molybdenum, I recognized that they were the same foods as those correlated with less "morning sickness."

Rates of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy were correlated with high intake of macronutrients (kilocalories, protein, fat, carbohydrate), as well as sugars, stimulants, meat, milk and eggs, and with low intake of cereals and pulses. 

GV Pepper, SC Roberts. Rates of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and dietary characteristics across populations. Proc Biol Sci 2006;273(1601):2675-2679.

The only reason I knew about the 2006 diet study was because of my prior pregnancies, during which I scoured the internet for information about how to not suffer so much from my "morning sickness." When I saw the list of foods high in molybdenum, my brain made the connection between the 2006 study findings and those foods. It was one of the coolest "Eureka" moments of my life. And given how molybdenum has ended up being helpful for both nausa/vomiting and migraines, it was probably the most impact-making "Eureka" moment I'll ever have. I stumbled on something big because I was willing to learn about something I hadn't known about before. I hope others are also willing to learn. Just because ignorance is a normal state of affairs doesn't mean we have to remain there.

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