Authored By Murigi

An overview of manganese

Manganese is a vital mineral for optimal health. It is needed in very small amounts. Too much of it can lead to health problems just as inadequate intake or unavailability of it to the body will also cause a different set of health disorders. This is an area of interest to scientist where they are trying to understand how this mineral affects health when there is too much or too little of it. It is a widely distributed mineral which is mostly found in the following structures:

  • Bones
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Kidneys

Uses in the body

Manganese broadly works in two ways.

  1. As a cofactor in many enzymes
  2. As a catalyst for the normal working of certain enzymes.

More specifically, this mineral supports the following functions in the body.

  • Supports the synthesis and maintenance of healthy connective tissues
  • Helps in bone synthesis
  • Supports healthy blood clotting system
  • Production of sex hormones
  • Synthesis of amino acids
  • Supports the immune system and promotes better wound healing
  • Supports calcium metabolism
  • Plays a role in the regulation of blood sugar
  • Supports healthy nervous system
  • It’s needed for fat metabolism
  • Plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Antioxidant effects of manganese

Manganese is an important antioxidant. This helps to control the amount of circulating free radicals (reactive oxygen species). It works as a compound called manganese superoxidase dismutase (SOD). This is the main antioxidant in the mitochondria. This is very important because this structure is a high consumer of oxygen. For this reason, chances of having reactive oxygen are very high in the mitochondria which make it vulnerable to damage by these highly reactive metabolic byproducts. A common radical in this process is called superoxide. Manganese superoxidase dismutase helps in accelerating the conversion of this radical to hydrogen peroxide which is then acted upon by other enzymes to form water. This keeps the mitochondria, the cells’ power house, healthy and the cells producing adequate energy to keep all body systems running as they ought to.

Signs and symptoms of manganese deficiency

The symptoms of manganese deficiency in human beings are not well-defined. There may not be overt indications of the problem. However, the problem can manifest as disorders which may not immediately be associated to this deficiency. This can include:

  • Stunted growth
  • Reproduction difficulties
  • Poor bone growth
  • Skin disorders
  • Poor sugar metabolism
  • Poor carbohydrate metabolism
  • Poor fats metabolism

Laboratory and imaging tests may reveal findings that suggest manganese deficiency. These include:

  • Osteoporosis due to bone demineralization
  • Low serum manganese levels
  • Elevated blood calcium levels
  • Elevated phosphorus levels
  • Elevated alkaline phosphatase levels
  • Poor glucose tolerance tests (GTT). This means that after an infusion of glucose solution, blood sugar doesn’t come back to normal quickly enough after the initial induced spike.

Risk factors that contribute to manganese deficiency

Inadequate dietary intake of manganese is a common risk factor. The other is where a medical condition is preventing the availability of the mineral to the body even where dietary intake is enough. Drug interactions may also be an inhibitor to the availability of manganese to the body. Specific risk groups include:

  • People with chronic gut diseases. This includes chronic bowel diseases such as Chrohn’s disease and Celiac disease.
  • People who have had gut surgery where part of the gut has been removed
  • This group is likely to have other issues that support manganese loss. These include digestive problems, kidney damage, liver damage and even pancreatic issues.
  • The elderly. These are at a risk of feeding poorly and also having medical problems or being on medications that increase deficiency risk.
  • People on long-term use of other minerals such as iron, calcium, and phosphorus 

When manganese is too much in the body

Manganese toxicity is a real risk. Toxicity due to dietary intake (unless from supplements) is unlikely. Certain occupations increase this risk. Welders for example are exposed to chronic manganese fumes and with time can suffer from its toxicity. The main manifesting signs and symptoms are neurological in nature. The problem can mimic Parkinson’s disease.

To avoid toxicity issues, occupational precautions should be in place. It is also important to use supplements that have manganese in the right and safe amounts. A nutritional supplement like Basic offers only 2.5mg per serving. This is way below the tolerable upper limit of the mineral which according to the U.S Food and Nutrition Board is 11mg/day for a healthy adult.

Other health disorders due to chronic high levels of manganese (manganism) include:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Reproductive issues. Impotence and difficulty to have adequate sperm synthesis to aid conception.
  • Poor growth and development in children
  • Acute toxicity can cause cardiovascular problems

Dosage of manganese

Currently, there is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this mineral. However, the U.S Food and Nutrition Board have suggested values considered Adequate Intake (AI) per day. The table below has the details.

Stage in Life

Age Range

Males AI in mg/day

Females AI mg/day


0 to 6 months



7 to 12 months





1 to 3 years



4 to 8 years



9 to 13 years




14 to 18 years




19 years and above




All ages



Breastfeeding mothers

All ages




Sources of manganese

Research indicates that the following are some of the benefits that can be realized with adequate and available manganese in the body.

  1. Supports healthy bones. It helps in maintaining good bone density and prevents osteoporosis.
  2. Supports healthy insulin production and hence helps to maintain a balanced state of blood sugar
  3. May help in the control of epileptic fits
  4. Supports a balanced and healthy inflammation process
  5. Supports the immune system
  6. Helps with reducing signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  7. Supports thyroid functions
  8. Helps with brain functions and cognition
  9. Supports the metabolism of vitamins and makes them more available to the body.

Vegan sources of manganese

These include:

  • Pineapples
  • Peanuts
  • Whole grains
  • Whole meal bread
  • Beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tea – both green and black

Breastfed children can get some amounts of manganese from the breast milk. Drinking water also has varying amounts of the mineral. 

Manganese supplements

These are readily available. They are usually part of a composite dietary supplement with other minerals, vitamins, and or amino acids. For example, Basic (mentioned above) contains manganese in addition to calcium, iodine, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins. All these work together for overall wellness. For details about this dietary supplement, click here

Safety and interactions

The safety margin of manganese is very narrow. Avoid toxicity by sticking to the suggested Adequate Intake per day. The mineral’s absorption rate can be impaired by concurrent intake of antacids that contain magnesium. Certain antibiotics such as tetracycline can also inhibit the absorption of the mineral and should not be used together.


Front Matter." Institute of Medicine. 2001. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Sandström, B. (2001). Micronutrient interactions: Effects on absorption and bioavailability. British Journal of Nutrition, 85(S2), S181-S185. doi:10.1049/BJN2000312

The Potential for Dietary Supplements to Reduce Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Symptoms Adrianne Bendich Journal of the American College of Nutrition Vol. 19 , Iss. 1,2000

Other sources

Osteoarthritis and cartilage (Journal)

The National Academies Press (NAP)



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