The Copper & Moco Connection

As mentioned previously, many forms of sulfite intolerance may be caused by a deficiency of the molybdenum cofactor (sometimes called Moco) as part of sulfite oxidase enzyme. Since the mineral molybdenum is required within this cofactor, supplementing may help. Recently, I talked to a lady that had improved her sulfite condition by drinking water fortified with molybdenum. She had traditionally taken Centrum multi-vitamins (which contain molybdenum along with other minerals) without much improvement. But the water helped. Now, I had taken molybdenum in the form of a mineral supplement for a full year and my sulfite tolerance slowly doubled. But after a year, the molybdenum capsules didn't seem to offer further improvement. Would I have better luck with molybdenum water? I can't ignore a question like that, so I risked $20 and bought a bottle. Over a period of weeks, I drank the bottled water which provided an average of 214 mcg of molybdenum per day, about the same dosage I had previously taken in pill form. My sulfite tolerance improved by about 10%, not a miracle but very welcome. Why was the molybdenum water able to help when my pills had ceased to work?

Sulfite Allergy to Medicine ( sulfites, sulfur dioxide, sulfa prescription drugs, sulfite preservatives, sulphite )I wondered if the form of molybdenum in the water made a difference. The manufacturer claimed that the only ingredients were water and molybdenum. The molybdenum I had previously taken was aluminum molybdate which means aluminum with molybdenum attached to four oxygen atoms. Most researchers claim that molybdenum is well absorbed no matter what the form. However, there are cautions that molybdenum should be taken carefully because it can depress the absorption of copper and cause copper deficiency. Apparently, that's one reason why both my mineral pills and Centrum vitamins contain copper and molybdenum to prevent an imbalance. It seems that zinc is a player, too. Most foods contain copper and zinc as minerals. The optimum balance is around 6 to 1, more zinc to less copper. Your body keeps copper and zinc in balance and a similar ratio should be reflected in healthy organ and hair samples. Well, I had my hair analyzed when I was concerned about chronic levels of lead and mercury. So, I looked over my old results. Both copper and zinc tested in the normal range which is why they never caught my eye. But copper was on the high end of normal and the zinc/copper ratio was less than 6. Maybe I had too much copper in my body. And if molybdenum could interfere with copper absorption, maybe the reverse was true. Perhaps excess copper was interfering with molybdenum.

To test this theory, I located a molybdenum pill that did not contain copper. I chose one with 500 mcg of molybdenum and began taking it with a 50 mg zinc supplement for good measure. After a month, I again tested my sulfite threshold and it had risen by 16%. This was even better than the magic water. It seemed clear that copper was the key. Apparently, the copper in my original mineral pills and in Centrum multi-vitamins had limited the effectiveness of the molybdenum. If you search the internet for chronic conditions associated with copper toxicity, you will find a long list including arthritis, fatigue, insomnia, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, headache, seizure, yeast infection, gum disease, tooth decay, skin rash, endometriosis and even thyroid problems. Psychological disorders adversely affected by copper include depression, anxiety, panic, violence, autism, schizophrenia and attention deficit. What a zoo! I guess we will have to add sulfite intolerance to the list. If you have several of these conditions, copper toxicity may be the discovery of your life.

Sulfite Allergy and Copper Levels ( sulfites, sulfur dioxide, sulfa prescription drugs, sulfite preservatives, sulphite )

How does one accumulate too much copper? Food contains copper and zinc in differing amounts. Your menu choices may be affecting copper levels and nothing is printed on the food label to help you. Foods high in copper include liver, nuts, chocolate, lobster, crab, ham, beans and potato skins. But some of these contain equally large portions of zinc. Beef and chicken also contain moderate amounts of copper but they are even richer sources of zinc which helps to strike a balance. The table below presents levels of copper, zinc and their ratio for foods that supply significant amounts of copper. For reference, the recognized minimum daily requirement ( MDR ) for copper is 2 mg while zinc is appropriately higher at 15 mg. As you can see, copper and zinc values seem to vary just as much as calories and salt. About the only thing that seems obvious is that beef liver is way out of the healthy range.

Food Table of Copper and Zinc Values
 ( A Zinc/Copper ratio of 6 is ideal when averaged over all foods. )

Food Serving Size Copper (mg) Zinc (mg) Zn/Cu Ratio
Liver, beef 100 g 14.47 5.19 0.4
Oyster, steamed 2 oz 2.62 63.0 24.1
Lobster, cooked 1 large tail 2.00 3.02 1.5
Crab, cooked 1 cup 0.76 4.94 6.5
Cashew nuts 18 nuts 0.58 1.52 2.6
Beans, baked 1 cup 0.53 8.07 15.1
Popcorn, lowfat 1 bag 0.42 2.95 7.0
Potato skins 1 large 0.40 0.29 0.7
Spaghetti, tom sauce 1 cup 0.36 1.29 3.6
Chocolate 1 bar 0.24 0.62 2.6
Mushrooms 10 pieces 0.21 0.35 1.7
Cheeseburger 1 generic 0.20 3.27 16.4

Another source of copper is drinking water that has rested in copper pipes or cookware. Some cities add copper sulfate to the water supply to control algae growth. And swimming pools can accumulate copper as water is constantly circulated through heaters built with copper tubing. The federal EPA standard for drinking water limits copper to 1.3 ppm. Let's do a little calculation. If an 8 ounce glass of water contains as much copper as the EPA allows, the actual amount would be 240g x 1.3 ppm = 0.312 mg. Good Lord, that's 15% of the MDR for copper from a single glass of water. If you drank 8 glasses a day, your chances of accumulating too much copper would be pretty high. Of course, I don't know what the actual levels are in your house. I do know that I have copper plumbing and the copper in my hair is in the high normal range. I now drink most of my water from a pitcher with a Brita carbon filter which is supposed to remove 99% of the copper. It's a complicated problem. If you suspect you might be copper toxic, you should talk to your doctor and have your blood or hair tested.

I have suggested that excess levels of copper somehow interfere with production of the molybdenum cofactor and sulfite oxidase enyzme. This conclusion is based on my experience and the experience of a few others. Is there any evidence to back up this hunch? Perhaps so. An immediate precursor of the molybdenum cofactor is a molecule called metal binding pterin. It contains a copper atom in the sweet spot. As pterin evolves into the molybdenum cofactor, this copper atom must be replaced by molybdenum. Too much copper coupled with too little molybdenum would make such a transition less likely, reducing the conversion rate. In a normal person, enzymes would help to compensate for excess copper or scarce molybdenum. But, we are focusing on those with a sulfite intolerance and compromised enzymes. Again, this is not proof. It is simply a possible mechanism to explain the anecdotal facts. These two structures are shown in the table below. Note that the abreviation for copper is Cu and that of molybdenum is Mo.

Metal Binding Pterin


Moly Cofactor


If you decide to try either molybdenum or zinc supplements to see if they may help your condition, you should be aware of the symptoms of copper deficiency including unusual fatigue, skin sores, swelling, edema, hair loss, anorexia and diarrhea. Molybdenum supplementation is contraindicated for pregnant or nursing women and for those with gout or high levels of uric acid. Also, if you detoxify copper too rapidly, copper levels rise in the blood as they are removed. In turn, this may cause headaches, rashes, odor, digestive problems and mood swings. As a trial, I doubled up on the molybdenum (1000 mcg) for a few days and had to resume taking a lower dosage when I developed problems. Based on this experience, perhaps it would be wise to take a moderate 250 mcg dosage of molybdenum for a month to see how your body responds. If you have no problems, then the daily dosage might be raised to 500 mcg but not more. You should definitely not take molybdenum or zinc for extended periods without consulting your doctor and submitting to blood or hair tests. And please realize that I am not a doctor and all of the above information is intended to enlighten but not to diagnose or prescribe.

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