Manganese may not be as well-known as similar-sounding magnesium, but it’s just as important. Manganese is a mineral that helps you process carbohydrates and fat and create hormones.
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It’s critical for healthy bones, connective tissue, blood clotting and nerve function. It also helps keep inflammation in check. You get manganese from the foods you eat. Your body stores it in your bones, brain, kidneys, liver and pancreas.
“You don’t need a lot of manganese, but without enough, you run the risk of several health issues,” says registered dietitian Maxine Smith, RD, LD.
Manganese deficiency may be linked to conditions such as skin rashes and mood changes, but research is very limited and more studies on the effects of manganese in humans are needed.
Minerals play a role in nearly every process in your body. Manganese is a trace mineral, which means you only need small amounts of it.
Your body needs manganese for healthy bones, reproduction and immunity, to create energy and for blood clotting. Despite being a trace mineral, the effects of manganese are mighty.
Here are five important benefits of manganese:
Your body uses manganese to create an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). If you don’t get enough manganese, you’re likely also low in SOD. That’s bad news for your cells. SOD is one of your most powerful weapons against cell damage caused by free radicals. SOD helps reduce inflammation throughout your body, and it’s believed to reduce the pain of joint inflammation.
Free radical damage leads to all kinds of problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, heart disease, signs of premature aging, and other chronic and inflammatory diseases.
Nonhuman studies in the lab suggest SOD may help fight cancer cell growth and inflammation that comes with:
But more studies are needed to confirm if these same benefits are true for humans.
Your brain uses manganese to help your nerve cells (neurons) send signals to each other. A review of several studies about manganese and the brain shows this trace mineral can even improve brain function.
If you don’t have enough manganese in your diet, you may have a higher risk of mental illness, learning disabilities and seizures. The antioxidant action of manganese in the form of SOD can also protect your brain cells from free radical damage.
But not all manganese is healthy. Certain chemicals contain manganese. Exposure to manganese in the workplace (particularly inhaling these manganese-containing chemicals) can cause neurotoxicity, which changes the activity of your nervous system. This neurotoxicity may lead to a Parkinson’s disease-like condition and other brain-related issues.
“But these types of toxic effects don’t happen when you get manganese from your diet,” reassures Smith. “Still, it’s important not to overdo it with manganese supplements because some studies suggest that too much can interfere with thyroid hormone production.”
When you have a wound, your body needs to produce collagen to help you heal. Collagen is a protein that gives shape and strength to many of your tissues, including bones, ligaments, muscles and skin. Your body needs manganese to create proline, an amino acid, which it then uses to make collagen.
Manganese is one of the minerals important for growing and maintaining healthy bones. “Bone health is important for everyone, especially for older adults assigned female at birth (AFAB). They are at the greatest risk for osteoporosis,” says Smith.
Your body needs to properly break down food to receive benefits from the nutrients you eat. Here’s where enzymes — and manganese — come in.
“Enzymes are specialized proteins that speed up certain chemical reactions in your body,” says Smith.
Your body needs manganese to create or activate enzymes involved in breaking down and using macronutrients, including:
Manganese is also essential in chemical processes that allow your body to use nutrients and vitamins such as choline, thiamine, vitamin C and vitamin E.
The recommended amount of manganese for adults who aren’t pregnant or lactating is 1.8 to 2.3 milligrams per day, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“A key point to remember is that manganese is a trace mineral,” reiterates Smith. “We don’t need large amounts, and getting too much can be harmful.”
Most people get the manganese they need from food. Manganese deficiency is very rare and you most likely don’t need to take manganese supplements, she adds. “If you think you need more manganese than what you get in your diet, talk to your healthcare provider before starting a supplement.”
Many foods contain small amounts of manganese, and Smith recommends eating a variety of them.
Foods containing manganese include: