Manganese: importance for the body and foods that provide it

Manganese is an essential trace element that participates in multiple functions, among which the metabolism of carbohydrates, the maintenance of bone tissue and connective tissue stand out.

Last update: December 13, 2021

Manganese is a natural mineral that is part of the trace elements. It is essential for the proper functioning of the human body. However, their requirements are minimal and are usually supplied with the daily diet.

It is not produced in the human body, but it is stored in the liver, pancreas, bones, kidneys and brain. It contributes to different functions, among which the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and cholesterol stand out. In addition, it participates in the formation and maintenance of bone density, the healing of tissues and the reduction of inflammation.

It is usually included in small amounts in foods that are part of the daily diet. Among them are pineapple, beans, teas, brown rice, whole wheat bread and milk.

Its deficiency is very rareBut it can have detrimental health effects when it is lacking. Like its excess, it can be toxic to tissues.

What foods are rich in manganese?

Foods high in manganese include mussels, wheat germ and its derivatives, tofu, sweet potatoes, walnuts, brown rice, whole wheat bread, lima beans, chickpeas, almonds, oats, black and green teas, broccoli, quinoa, kale, chia seeds, romaine lettuce, spinach, olives, soybeans, sesame, sunflower, hazelnuts and pineapple.

It can also be found in spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper. It is also in breast milk and in very small amounts in drinking water. However, too much manganese in the water supply can be toxic.

The foods with the highest manganese content are mussels, roasted wheat germ, and tofu.

Manganese functions

This mineral is very important in the functioning of the human body. Although many are unaware of it, its characteristics make it unique. Let’s see.

Tofu is an important source of manganese in vegan diets.

Decreases inflammation and is an important antioxidant

Free radicals are harmful products of metabolism that contribute to aging, heart problems, and the development of some types of cancer.

Manganese as an antioxidant protects against free radicals. This is because it participates in the synthesis and activation of the enzyme superoxide dismutase, converting superoxide (one of the main free radicals) into non-harmful products.

On the other hand, reduces inflammation in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin. This is especially helpful in reducing osteoarthritis pain.

The reduction of inflammation, together with the reduction of cellular damage due to its antioxidant effect, allows manganese to reduce the risk of chronic diseases that involve both mechanisms, such as osteoporosis.

Promotes the formation and maintenance of bone tissue

This trace element participates in the synthesis of bone tissue and in its maintenance. It combines with other nutrients, such as zinc, calcium, and copper to support bone mineral density; especially in older adults.

Regulates carbohydrate metabolism

Manganese can lower blood sugar levels Because it increases the synthesis of insulin in the pancreas. This is the hormone responsible for the entry of glucose into the cells.

Participate in healing

On the one hand, the mineral regulates collagen synthesis (due to its participation in the synthesis of proline), but it also activates enzymes that synthesize skin cells, in combination with zinc and calcium. It participates in healing, since together with vitamin K it helps the formation of clots.

Eliminate ammonia

Manganese participates in the synthesis of the enzyme arginase, which removes ammonia. This metabolite is excreted by the kidney and in high concentrations it can be neurotoxic.

Prevents epileptic seizures

Due to its effect of increasing blood flow, by dilation of blood vessels (especially in the brain), it reduces the risk of seizures. This is noticeable in adults over 35 with a history of epilepsy..

Other known features

Manganese has been reported to be involved in the metabolism of cholesterol, amino acids, and numerous vitamins (such as thiamine, vitamin C, and vitamin E). It is also believed that participates in reducing the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in combination with calcium.

Manganese deficiency is very rare

The distribution of the mineral in foods for daily consumption makes its deficit rare. In addition, it can be stored in amounts up to 20 milligrams in the kidneys, liver, pancreas, and bones.

However, manganese deficiency is possible. It can manifest with decreased bone density and poor growth, joint pain, weight gain and other symptoms associated with glucose intolerance, as well as fertility problems, dermatitis and hair loss.

Meeting the daily amounts is especially important in cases of high requirements, such as newborns, children, pregnant women, people with liver disease and those with iron deficiencies.

Manganese requirements

The adequate intake of manganese will depend on the age and the own requirements of each person. For children it can vary between 2 to 5 milligrams per day. After age 19, in women, 1.8 milligrams per day are needed; and in men about 2.3 milligrams daily.

In pregnant women and in lactation it is 0.2 to 0.9 milligrams more per day.

Is the consumption of supplements necessary?

Supplements are required only in specific cases and indicated by a doctor or nutritionist. The mineral is widely distributed in over-the-counter multivitamins.

The consumption of these supplements should be regulated by possible interactions with certain medications. It could increase the adverse effects of antipsychotics and compete with the absorption of tetracyclines and quinolones.

A manganese supplement is almost never needed. They are only indicated in people with a diagnosed deficit.

Excess manganese is more likely than deficiency

A person is more likely to experience manganese toxicity than a deficiency. Due to its low content in food, excessive consumption is rare.

However, casting and welding jobs pose a high risk of overexposure. Inhaled manganese travels directly to the brain without being metabolized.

When the exposure is high it can cause a disease similar to Parkinson’s, with difficulty walking, muscle spasms in the face, tremors, irritability, aggressiveness and hallucinations. In addition, it affects the respiratory system.

An essential trace element

The recommended daily intakes of manganese are achieved with a balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables. Supplements are necessary in very few cases.

However, like zinc, copper, selenium, and iron, manganese is considered a heavy metal. Its overexposure can generate toxicity. Due to this, it is recommended not to exceed tolerable levels, which for an adult are 11 milligrams daily.

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