Manganese is an important trace mineral needed for many vital functions, including nutrient absorption, production of digestive enzymes, bone development and immune-system defenses.
This essential nutrient works closely with other minerals, including iron. It has an important role in the synthesis of nutrients like cholesterol, carbohydrates and proteins.
It’s also involved in the formation of bone mass and helps balance hormones.
You’ll find manganese in foods including sprouted grains, legumes, beans, certain nuts and seeds. To some extent, it’s also found in fruits and vegetables, although whole grains are usually considered the best natural source.
Wherever it is found, iron (which helps create hemoglobin and carry oxygen throughout the body) is usually also present.
What does manganese do to the body? Found mostly in bones, the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, it has roles in:
- macronutrient metabolism
- forming connective tissue and bones
- facilitating blood clotting
- sex hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis
Here are some of the ways that it helps support general health:
1. Supports Bone Health and Helps Prevent Osteoporosis
Manganese, in combination with other minerals, including calcium, zinc and copper, helps support bone health and reduces bone loss, especially in older/postmenopausal women who are more susceptible to bone fractures and weak bones.
Manganese deficiency also poses a risk for bone-related disorders, since this mineral helps with the formation of bone regulatory hormones and enzymes involved in bone metabolism. It also balances levels of calcium — helping to fight calcium deficiency — and phosphorus, all of which work together to promote skeletal health.
According to studies, taking manganese along with other bone-supporting nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, copper and boron can improve bone mass in women with weak bones and prevent bone spinal loss, which is useful to naturally fight osteoporosis.
2. Needed for Antioxidant and Enzyme Function
It’s also a co-factor that is used to make important enzymes, including arginase and glutamine synthetase.
These work as antioxidants in the body, helping fight free radical damage and lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which can lead to issues such as heart disease or cancer. This is why one reason why scientists now believe that manganese deficiency may be tied to higher risk for:
- metabolic diseases
- type 2 diabetes
- insulin resistance
- liver disease
Manganese-deficient animals have been shown to have low manganese superoxide dismutase function. This can be harmful because this is one of the major free radical damage-fighting enzymes in the body.
In fact, superoxide dismutase is sometimes called the “primary” or “master antioxidant” since it’s especially powerful at reducing inflammation, pain and bodily stress.
Superoxide dismutases are the only enzymes capable of consuming superoxide radicals, making them valuable for slowing the aging process and prolonging health.
Manganese also helps form important enzymes related to bone formation, including glycosyltransferases and xylosyltransferases. Finally, it’s involved in creation of digestive enzymes that turn compounds found in food into useable nutrients and energy within the body, including glucose and amino acids.
3. Helps Maintain Cognitive Function
A percentage of the body’s manganese supply exists in the synaptic vesicles within the brain, so it is closely tied to electrophysiological activity of the brain’s neurons that control cognitive function.
This mineral is released into the synaptic cleft of the brain and affects synaptic neurotransmission. Thus, manganese deficiency can make people more prone to mental illness, mood changes, learning disabilities and even epilepsy.
For example, certain clinical studies suggest that people who have seizure disorders have lower levels of manganese in their blood.
At the same time, overexposure to this mineral can also cause neurological dysfunction, so striking a balance is important.
4. Fights and Damages Diabetes
This essential nutrient is needed to help with proper production of digestive enzymes responsible for a process called gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis involves the conversion of protein’s amino acids into sugar and the balance of sugar within the bloodstream.
Although the exact mechanism still isn’t clear, this mineral has been shown to help prevent overly high blood sugar levels that can contribute to diabetes.
When researchers involved in one study tested the effects of manganese supplementation in mice that were susceptible to diet-induced diabetes, they found that the group of mice given manganese over 12 weeks experienced improved glucose tolerance compared to mice not taking the supplement. The manganese-treated group exhibited improved insulin secretion, decreased lipid peroxidation and improved mitochondrial function.
5. Supports Lung and Respiratory Health
Oxidative stress/damage from free radicals is believed to be a key mechanism for smoking-induced COPD and other respiratory disorders, so manganese’s ability to help lower inflammation and oxidative stress through the production of SODs makes it beneficial for those in need of lung healing.
6. Helps Prevent Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
Manganese, along with supplements containing glucosamine hydrochloride or chondroitin sulfate, is one recommended natural treatment for arthritis. Regularly eating foods high in manganese, plus possibly taking supplements, can help reduce inflammation in the joints and tissue, allowing arthritis sufferers to feel more comfortable.
This nutrient has been sown to be especially helpful with reducing common pains in the knees and the lower back.
7. Reduces PMS Symptoms
Consuming plenty of manganese along with calcium can help improve symptoms of PMS — such as abdominal tenderness, muscle pains, anxiety, mood swings and trouble sleeping.
One study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who had lower levels of manganese in their blood experienced more pain and mood-related symptoms during pre-menstruation. A 2019 study also found that daily consumption of whole grains (which are rich in manganese and other trace minerals) in place of refined grains can contribute to improvement in PMS symptoms.
Consuming more of this mineral is believed to work as a natural remedy for PMS because it helps lower inflammation and supports hormone balance.
8. May Help with Weight Loss
Some early research points to the fact that manganese, taken in a specific form called 7-Keto Naturalean, combined with other supportive nutrients like L-tyrosine, asparagus root extract, choline, copper and potassium, may be able to help reduce weight in obese or overweight people.
More research is still needed to determine how it supports healthy weight loss and metabolism, but it’s likely related to the ability to improve digestive enzymes and balance hormones.
9. Speeds Up Wound Healing
By applying manganese, calcium and zinc to serious and chronic wounds, studies show that wound healing can speed up significantly over a period of 12 weeks.
10. Helps Balance Iron Levels and Prevent Anemia
Iron and manganese work closely together, and a strong inverse relationship between deficiency in iron and high manganese levels has been found. While overly high manganese can contribute to anemia, the mineral also helps the body use and store iron to some degree, which can help prevent anemia (low iron).
You’ll find manganese in foods that include trace minerals, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, greens like spinach and potatoes.
Even though it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to consume these foods, surveys suggest that as many as 37 percent of Americans do not meet their daily needs for manganese, most likely because many people eat refined grains over whole grains.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, below are some of the top food sources of manganese. Percentages are based on the adult women’s average intake of 1.8 milligrams/daily:
- Teff – 1 cup cooked: 7.2 milligrams (400 percent DV)
- Rye — 1 cup cooked: 4.3 milligrams (238 percent DV)
- Brown Rice — 1 cup cooked: 2.1 milligrams (116 percent DV)
- Amaranth — 1 cup cooked: 2.1 milligrams (116 percent DV)
- Hazelnuts — 1 ounce: 1.5 milligrams (83 percent DV)
- Adzuki Beans — 1 cup cooked: 1.3 milligrams (72 percent DV)
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) — 1 cup cooked: 1.2 milligrams (66 percent DV)
- Macadamia Nuts — 1 ounce: 1.1 milligrams (61 percent DV)
- White Beans — 1 cup cooked: 1.1 milligrams (61 percent DV)
- Oats — 1/3 cup dry/about 1 cup cooked: 0.98 milligrams (54 percent DV)
- Black Beans — 1 cup cooked: 0.7 milligrams (38 percent DV)
- Buckwheat — 1 cup groats cooked: 0.6 milligrams (33 percent DV)
Other good sources include:
- wheat and oat bran
- bulgur wheat
- pinto and navy beans
- green and black tea
Supplements and Dosage
Because manganese deficiency is thought to be uncommon, supplements are not usually recommended for the general public. The safest way to prevent deficiency is to increase your dietary manganese intake by eating more manganese foods, rather than taking supplements.
However, sometimes a supplement may be recommended if someone has trouble digesting minerals due to a health condition.
In healthy adults, it’s extremely unlikely to consume too much manganese from food source alone. Rather, people usually take in too much when consuming certain supplements.
Supplement products promoted for osteoarthritis, for example, can include high levels in the form of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride, which can bring someone’s intake above the tolerable upper limit for adults (11 milligrams per day).
People who should avoid manganese supplements, or speak with a doctor first, include those with existing liver disease, who likely have trouble getting rid of the mineral, and people with a history of alcoholism or anemia.
Types of Supplements:
You can take this mineral in capsule, liquid or even injectable forms.
There are several types of manganese supplements available, some of which are bonded (or chelated) with amino acids to with help absorption. Chelated forms are sometimes called manganese aspartate, ascorbate, picolinate, fumarate, malate, succinate, citrate and amino acid chelate.
Popular types include manganese gluconate (which is bonded with gluconic acid salt) and manganese sulfate (another type of salt).
Sometimes children are given this nutrient in liquid or injectable forms (in dosages between two to 10 micrograms or per day) to help prevent deficiency.
If you take calcium or phosphorous supplements, speak with your doctor about whether a manganese supplement is right for you, considering these minerals all help balance levels of one another.
Dosage/Recommended Daily Intake:
Currently, there isn’t any standard recommended dietary allowances for manganese. When there isn’t a USDA-regulated amount for a nutrient, an adequate intake (AI) is used instead as a guide for how much to consume each day.
The daily AI levels for manganese depend on someone’s age and gender and are listed below, according to the USDA.
- Infants up to 6 months: 3 micrograms
- 7 to 12 months: 600 micrograms
- 1 to 3 years: 1.2 milligrams
- 4 to 8 years: 1.5 milligrams
- Boys 9 to 13 years: 1.9 milligrams
- Boys 14 to 18 years: 2.2 milligrams
- Girls 9 to 18 years: 1.6 milligrams
- Men age 19 years and older: 2.3 milligrams
- Women age 19 years and older: 1.8 milligrams
- Pregnant women age 14 years and older: 2 milligrams
- Breastfeeding women: 2.6 milligrams
Risks and Side Effects
Why might manganese be bad for you? How does too much manganese affect the body?
Too much manganese usually poses more of a threat than too little, especially during development years when the brain is still forming. Excessive accumulation in the central nervous system during childhood (causing high blood manganese levels) can cause birth defects and cognitive problems — however this is considered a low risk.
Manganese “toxicity” is possible, although it’s rare. Most adults are safe taking and consuming up to 11 milligrams of manganese each day.
In some cases certain people aren’t able to flush manganese from the body properly, and high levels can accumulate.
As with all nutrients, it’s always best to get enough manganese from whole food sources as opposed to supplements whenever possible. Whole foods contain the proper mix of different vitamins and minerals that work to balance one another and enable functioning.
Manganese can build up in people who have certain digestive issues, causing side effects such as mental problems, dizziness and shaking, and worsened liver disease. People who have existing iron deficiency (anemia) are also likely to absorb higher levels of manganese so they need to be cautious about their consumption.
Consuming more than the upper limit of 11 milligrams per day of manganese can possibly cause side effects, even some that are serious and very harmful, such as neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
Always make sure to check supplement labels carefully, and follow the dosage directions. Before taking high dosages of manganese, or any other mineral or nutrient, you might also want to have your current level checked by your doctor to confirm how much you need via supplements, if any.
Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
Although a manganese deficiency is pretty rare in developed nations where people are generally not malnourished, a deficiency can cause serious health threats, including bone loss, muscle and joint pain, and changes in mood.
Manganese deficiency is usually caused by a lack of manganese-rich foods in someone’s diet and sometimes by chronic digestive disorders that make it hard to absorb manganese.
Because the body tightly regulates the amount of manganese it holds through levels of absorption and excretion, humans maintain stable tissue levels of manganese in most cases. This is the reason manganese deficiencies are rare.
What are the symptoms of low manganese? Low manganese levels can cause some of the following symptoms:
- weak bones (osteoporosis)
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- low immunity and frequently getting sick
- worsened symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- hormonal imbalances
- impaired glucose sensitivity
- changes in digestion and appetite
- impaired reproductive abilities or infertility
Only a small percentage of dietary manganese is even actually absorbed, and the rest is moved very rapidly into the gut via bile and then excreted — so trouble neutralizing and eliminating manganese due to existing liver, gut or digestive problems poses the biggest risk for acquiring too much manganese.
At the same time, manganese is taken up from the blood by the liver and transported to tissues throughout the body, so liver damage can also cause a deficiency.
- Benefits of manganese, which is an essential trace mineral, include supporting bone health, a healthy metabolism, blood clotting, hormone production and cognitive functions.
- It is a component of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Manganese superoxide dismutase helps fight free radicals and may prevent certain diseases.
- The RDA for adults 19 years and older is between 1.8 mg and 2.3 mg/day.
- Iron and manganese work together and are often found in the same foods. These include whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, teff, amaranth, bran, oats, black beans, and others.