Manganese is a trace mineral. It is vital for the human body, but people only need it in small amounts.
Manganese contributes to many bodily functions, including the metabolism of amino acids, cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrates. It also plays a role in bone formation, blood clotting, and reducing inflammation.
The human body cannot produce manganese, but it can store it in the liver, pancreas, bones, kidneys, and brain. A person usually obtains manganese from their diet.
In this article, learn more about how manganese functions in the body, as well as where to find it.
The potential health benefits of manganese include:
Manganese helps form an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). Antioxidants shield the body from free radicals, which are molecules that destroy or damage cells in the body.
The authors of a 2011 study found that SOD helps break down one of the more dangerous free radicals, called superoxide, into smaller components that are not harmful.
More research is necessary to prove the benefits of these antioxidants in the human body, however.
Supporting bone health
Reducing blood sugar
For people with diabetes, manganese may help lower blood sugar levels.
The authors of a 2014 study that took place in South Korea found that people with diabetes had lower levels of manganese in their bodies. What is not clear, however, is whether this is a causal factor or a result of diabetes.
Taking manganese supplements may help a person with diabetes produce more insulin naturally, but more research in humans is necessary to confirm these effects.
Along with vitamin K, manganese aids the formation of blood clots. Blood clotting, which keeps the blood in a damaged blood vessel, is the first stage of wound healing.
So, having adequate levels of manganese in the body may help stop blood loss when a person has an open wound.
Small amounts of manganese are present in a variety of foods, including:
- raw pineapple and pineapple juice
- pinto beans
- lima beans
- navy beans
- black and green teas
- sweet potato
- instant oatmeal
- raisin bran
- whole wheat bread
- brown rice
Infants can get manganese from breast milk and dairy or soy based formula.
Drinking water can also contain small amounts of manganese. However, too much manganese in the water supply can be toxic.
A person can take manganese supplements if their doctor believes that they have a deficiency.
There is no daily recommended intake of manganese, but the Adequate Intake (AI) is 2.3 milligrams (mg) per day for adult men and 1.8 mg per day for adult women.
People interested in taking manganese supplements can buy them from their local pharmacy or online. Manganese is also available in some multivitamins.
Typical forms available include:
- manganese sulfate
- manganese ascorbate
- manganese gluconate
- amino acid chelates of manganese
- manganese ascorbate in bone or joint health supplements
However, people do not usually need to take supplements to reach their daily AI of manganese.
Manganese is highly unlikely to cause any side effects if a person is just getting it from dietary sources.
People taking manganese supplements should not take more than the recommended amount on the bottle. However, it would likely take years of overexposure for a person to experience any issues.
People should talk to their healthcare provider before taking manganese supplements. It is important to ask whether the manganese could interfere with their current medications or exacerbate an existing medical condition.
If a person experiences side effects from taking manganese supplements, they should stop taking them and speak to a doctor.
A manganese deficiency is rare but possible. If this occurs, a doctor will prescribe manganese supplements, or they may suggest taking manganese intravenously if absorption is an issue.
Signs of a potential manganese deficiency include:
- reduced glucose tolerance
- impaired growth
- changes in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat
- skeletal or bone abnormalities
- fertility problems
It is more likely that a person will experience manganese toxicity (overexposure) than have a manganese deficiency.
The most significant risk related to manganese is for people who work in an environment where they might inhale it.
Smelting and welding are two high risk activities for accidental manganese inhalation. Inhaled manganese is dangerous because the body transports the mineral directly to the brain without first processing it for proper use.
Over time, inhaled manganese can lead to a serious condition called manganism. Manganism is similar to Parkinson's disease.
Symptoms of manganism include:
- difficulty walking
- muscle spasms in the face
- decreased lung function, a cough, or acute bronchitis
Although it is far less common, a person may experience similar symptoms if they have exposure to too much manganese in their water, food, or supplements. An average, healthy person does not need to worry about overexposure to manganese in their food or supplements.
However, some people have a higher risk of experiencing a toxic reaction to manganese, including:
- people with liver conditions
- people with iron deficiencies
People taking or considering taking manganese supplements should discuss their need for the supplement with their doctor first.
Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral that is present in some food groups. Although it is toxic at high levels, it has an important role in several bodily functions, including maintaining bone health and processing sugar.
Most people will get adequate amounts of manganese from their regular diet. However, some people with deficiencies may need to take manganese supplements.
People who work in occupations such as welding are at risk of developing health issues from long term exposure to inhaled manganese.
Anyone concerned about their manganese intake or exposure can talk to their doctor about testing and next steps.