For my next mineral spotlight, I wanted to choose one that most people have heard of, but probably have no idea why it is important. I’ll be honest, there haven’t been any days where I’m thinking, “am I getting enough manganese today?”.
It’s still somewhat of a mystery to researchers who have yet to uncover its full potential as a nutrient. What we do know is that it is essential, which means we must obtain it from our diet. In the early years of research, the roles of many essential nutrients were discovered accidentally. Some cases of manganese deficiency have been discovered by inadvertent exclusion in total parenteral nutrition (IV nutrition) or exclusion in research studies.
Manganese superoxide dismutase is a key antioxidant enzyme in mitochondria. We all remember mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) from high school biology. Mitochondria use oxygen and are exposed to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress causes free radical formation. Manganese superoxide dismutase helps to neutralize those radicals with the help of other antioxidants.
Manganese also is important for metabolism, bone development, wound healing, blood sugar regulation, and brain and nerve function. Those that are deficient in manganese experience infertility, seizures, impaired glucose tolerance, bone demineralization, and altered carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.
Now, don’t get too worried, manganese deficiency is very rare and believe it or not, toxicity is more of a problem. Manganese toxicity contributes to impaired neurological development in children and neurological disorders in adults.
Above you see the adequate intake for manganese. Most individuals consume enough manganese each day. the estimated average intake of Americans range from 1.6-10.9mg/day. The lower end are individuals whose diets are poor and the upper end would be a vegetarian eater. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine sets the upper limit for nutrients. For adults, the upper limit is a conservative 11mg/day.
Don’t let the upper limit scare you, our bodies help regulate manganese absorption. Tannins in teas and phytic acids and oxalic acids present in many of the foods containing manganese, may reduce absorption of all of the manganese. So, eat some of these nutritious foods from the list below!
The best sources of manganese come from nuts, whole grains, legumes, pineapple, and teas.
Please don’t consider taking a manganese supplement unless your doctor prescribes it. It is unnecessary because a plant-based diet will provide more than enough manganese each day.
Each essential nutrient has an important role, manganese is one that you will probably think of more often!