Manganese is a dietary mineral we often don’t talk about, yet many good whole foods contain at least trace amounts of this mineral. So is manganese good for you, and what does it do?
First of all, you won’t find this mineral on its own in nature. It is always paired with another element, often iron or calcium. This could be why we don’t hear as much about it.
Manganese is often used when producing stainless steel. It prevents rust and the corrosion of steel. It is also often used in fertilizer. However, we’re more concerned with the role manganese plays on our food.
Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and spices are some of the richest sources of manganese, but most plants contain at lease low levels of this mineral. Meat can also contain trace amounts because animals absorb this mineral through their diet.
So can you get too much manganese in your diet?
Yes, like any mineral, there is an upper limit before you run the risk of toxic effects. For manganese, that upper limit is 11mg a day in adults. Health Canada recommends men get 2.3mg a day and 1.8mg a day for women. So anywhere from 2-11mg is a general safe zone.
Manganese is an essential mineral. You couldn’t completely avoid it even if you wanted to. It is found in most any food at some level. For the most part, the body does a good job of regulating the amount of manganese the body has in it at any given time. However, a diet that consists of manganese rich foods on a consistent basis elevates your risk of manganese toxicity in the body.
When you have elevated levels of manganese in your body you may experience neurological impairment. These high levels of manganese could result in negative side effects on the nervous system. These side effects tend to mimic Parkinson’s disease.
Augmented levels of manganese during pregnancy can also have neurological effects on infants, but this is a relatively low risk.
Because high levels are readily available in a wide range of foods, it is easy to get adequate levels no matter what your diet looks like. That being said, it is easy to get too much manganese if you consume large amounts of any grain, or too many nuts.
So do we need this element in our diet?
Is it just there, paired with the minerals we need in our diet, or does manganese have its own health benefits?
Manganese actually has several very important benefits. Manganese is used as an antioxidant in the body. Manganese antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress. In fact, when enzymatic antioxidants fail to completely protect you from oxidative stress, manganese antioxidants are able to pick up the slack and protect cells from reactive oxygen species. This mineral is unique in this regard. This slows the aging process, and overall deterioration of the body.
Too much manganese may impair the brain, but proper levels are needed for neurotransmission. That means manganese deficiency can be just as dangerous, or even more so, than manganese toxicity. Deficiency may result in mental illness, mood swings, seizures, or learning disabilities.
Manganese is found in many medicines, including many osteoporosis medications. That is because it binds with calcium and reduces calcium loss, keeping calcium in bones (where it belongs). This can result in healthier bone density, relieving pain, and helping people perform normal physical movements.
A study conducted on mice found that manganese supplementation increased glucose tolerance, increasing insulin secretion, and lowering blood glucose levels. This could be beneficial for people at risk of type 2 diabetes. This same study also found that the manganese supplementation showed improved mitochondrial health, reducing cell death under stress. This is important for everyone. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell and healthy mitochondria are critical to optimizing your health and longevity.
Manganese may be additionally beneficial for women. Low levels of manganese resulted in increased mood swings, and pain during the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle. Healthy levels of manganese and calcium were shown to minimize these menstrual cycle symptoms.
Manganese is a crucial dietary mineral. If you didn’t know it before, you do now. Because it is so readily available in good whole food there is no reason to supplement this mineral. Enjoy knowing that this mineral supports your brain, and helps keep you young.