Manganese is a trace mineral that is present in tiny amounts in the body. It is found mostly in bones, the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Manganese helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. It also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. Manganese is also necessary for normal brain and nerve function.
Manganese is a component of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which helps fight free radicals. Free radicals occur naturally in the body but can damage cell membranes and DNA. They may play a role in aging, as well as the development of a number of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants, such as SOD, can help neutralize free radicals and reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.
Low levels of manganese in the body can contribute to infertility, bone malformation, weakness, and seizures. It is fairly easy to get enough manganese in your diet — this nutrient is found in whole grains, nuts, and seeds — but some experts estimate that as many as 37% of Americans do not get the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of manganese in their diet. The American diet tends to contain more refined grains than whole grains, and refined grains only provide half the amount of manganese as whole grains.
Manganese helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. It also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. Manganese is also necessary for normal brain and nerve function.
Manganese may help some of the following conditions:
Manganese is one of several trace elements (including vanadium and boron) that are necessary for bone health. There is no specific evidence that manganese can prevent osteoporosis, but one study found that taking a combination of calcium, zinc, copper, and manganese helped lessen spinal bone loss in a group of post menopausal women. Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but it is common in older women. As many as half of all women and a quarter of men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
People with arthritis tend to have low levels of SOD (an antioxidant that helps protect the joints from damage during inflammation). Some experts theorize that manganese may increase SOD levels, but there is no proof that it helps treat arthritis. A few clinical studies of people with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis suggest that manganese taken along with glucosamine and chondroitin can reduce pain. However, some studies have found no effect. Other studies have found that women with fibromyalgia have lower levels of calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese in their hair fibers than women without the disease.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
In one well-designed clinical study, women who ate 5.6 mg of manganese in their diets each day had fewer mood swings and cramps compared to those who ate only 1 mg of manganese. These results suggest that a manganese-rich diet may help reduce symptoms of PMS. Another clinical study found that patients with PMS had significantly lower amounts of calcium, chromium, copper, and manganese in their blood than those without PMS.
Some studies seem to show that people with diabetes have low levels of manganese in their blood. But researchers don’t know if having diabetes causes levels to drop, or whether low levels of manganese contribute to developing diabetes. More studies are needed. One clinical study found that people with diabetes who had higher blood levels of manganese were more protected from LDL or “bad” cholesterol than those with lower levels of manganese.
Several clinical studies suggest that people who have seizure disorders have lower levels of manganese in their blood. But researchers don’t know if having seizures causes low levels of manganese, or whether low levels of manganese contribute to having seizures. At least one animal study suggests that manganese supplementation does not reduce the severity or frequency of seizures in rats. More clinical studies are needed.