What is manganese most responsible for? As an essential nutrient that’s usually tied to iron and other minerals, manganese plays a role in numerous chemical processes, including synthesis of nutrients like cholesterol, carbohydrates and proteins. Also importantly, manganese is involved in the formation of bone mass and helps balance hormones naturally that affect nearly every aspect of health.
Manganese is an important trace mineral needed for many vital functions, including nutrient absorption, production of digestive enzymes, bone development and immune-system defenses.
Manganese is present in the highest quantities in whole foods, including sprouted grains, legumes or 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 manganese is found, iron is usually also present since these two work closely together.
Manganese also helps balance levels of calcium — helping fight calcium deficiency — and phosphorus, all of which work together in many crucial ways.
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. (1)
When a manganese deficiency occurs, some of the most common symptoms of include:
- 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
Too much manganese, on the other hand, usually poses more of a threat, especially during development years when the brain is still forming. What is manganese toxicity capable of doing to someone’s health? Excessive accumulation in the central nervous system can cause birth defects and cognitive problems but is considered a low risk. (2)
Only a small percentage of dietary manganese is even actually absorbed, and the rest is excreted very rapidly into the gut via bile and then excreted — so trouble neutralizing and eliminating manganese due to existing liver, gut or digestive problems pose 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.
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.
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.
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 and older: 2.3 milligrams
- Women 19 and older: 1.8 milligrams
- Pregnant women age 14 to 50: 2 milligrams
- Breastfeeding women: 2.6 milligrams
1. Supports Bone Health and Helps Prevent Osteoporosis
Manganese, in combination with other minerals, including calcium, zinc and copper, can help reduce bone loss, especially in older women who are more susceptible to bone fractures and weak bones. Manganese deficiency also poses a risk for bone-related disorders since manganese helps with the formation of bone regulatory hormones and enzymes involved in bone metabolism.
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, which is useful to naturally treat osteoporosis. (3)
2. Needed for Antioxidant and Enzyme Function
Manganese is used in numerous important enzymes, including arginase, glutamine synthetase and manganese superoxide. These work as antioxidants in the body, helping lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation that can lead to heart disease or cancer.
What is manganese most beneficial for when it comes to disease prevention? Manganese-deficient animals have been shown to have low manganese-related superoxide dismutase function, which 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 that can lead to numerous chronic diseases. (4) Superoxide dismutases (SODs) 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. And finally, manganese plays a part in important 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 manganese is closely tied to electrophysiological activity of the brain’s neurons that control cognitive function. Manganese is released into the synaptic cleft of the brain and affects synaptic neurotransmission, so it’s possible that a manganese deficiency can make people more prone to mental illness, mood changes, learning disabilities and even epilepsy. (5)
4. Fights and Damages Diabetes
Manganese 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, manganese has been shown to help prevent overly high blood sugar levels that can contribute to diabetes.
When researchers from the Department of Internal Medicine and Biochemistry at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center 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 manganese. The manganese-treated group exhibited improved insulin secretion, decreased lipid peroxidation and improved mitochondrial function. (6)
5. Supports Lung and Respiratory Health
Research suggests that manganese taken along with minerals like selenium and zinc can help people suffering from lung disorders, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Oxidative stress is believed to be a key mechanism for smoking-induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 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, makes it a 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 and do more normal activities. Manganese 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 tenderness, muscle pain, anxiety, mood swings and trouble sleeping — and work as a natural remedy for PMS. One study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who have lower levels of manganese in their blood experienced more pain and mood-related symptoms during pre-menstruation. (7)
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 manganese supports healthy weight loss and metabolism, but it’s likely related to manganese’s 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. (8)
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, manganese also helps the body use and store iron to some degree as well, which can help prevent anemia (low iron).
11. Prevents Infertility
Manganese deficiency can contribute to infertility since manganese helps with hormone regulation and antioxidant activity, thus manganese may work as a natural infertility treatment.
Best Food Sources
Percentages based on the adult women’s AI of 1.8 milligrams/daily:
- Teff (9) – 1 cup cooked: 7.2 milligrams (400 percent DV)
- Rye (10) — 1 cup cooked: 4.3 milligrams (238 percent DV)
- Brown Rice (11) — 1 cup cooked: 2.1 milligrams (116 percent DV)
- Amaranth (12) — 1 cup cooked: 2.1 milligrams (116 percent DV)
- Hazelnuts (13) — 1 ounce: 1.5 milligrams (83 percent DV)
- Adzuki Beans (14) — 1 cup cooked: 1.3 milligrams (72 percent DV)
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) (15) — 1 cup cooked: 1.2 milligrams (66 percent DV)
- Macadamia Nuts (16) — 1 ounce: 1.1 milligrams (61 percent DV)
- White Beans (17) — 1 cup cooked: 1.1 milligrams (61 percent DV)
- Oats (18) — 1/3 cup dry/about 1 cup cooked: 0.98 milligrams (54 percent DV)
- Black Beans (19) — 1 cup cooked: 0.7 milligrams (38 percent DV)
- Buckwheat (20) — 1 cup groats cooked: 0.6 milligrams (33 percent DV)
Related: Natto: The Fermented Soy Superfood
Risks and Side Effects
Manganese “toxicity” is possible, although it’s rare. Most adults are safe taking and consuming up to 11 milligrams of manganese each day, but in some cases certain people aren’t able to flush manganese from the body properly and high levels can accumulate.
In healthy adults, it’s extremely unlikely to consume too much manganese from food source alone; rather people usually take in too much manganese when taking certain supplements. Supplement products promoted for osteoarthritis, for example, can include high levels of manganese in the form of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride, which can bring someone’s intake above the tolerable upper limit (UL) for adults, 11 milligrams of manganese per day.
Other 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 manganese, and people with a history of alcoholism or anemia. Manganese can build up in these people and cause side effects, including 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 rate.
Consuming more than the UL 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.
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