Manganese: what is it?

Jennie Meynell
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Tea is a rich source of manganese
Think of manganese, if you've even heard of it, and you think of the periodic table that you studied at school. But apart from being a chemical element, what is it and what does it do? Why is it necessary to have it in our diets?

What is manganese?
Manganese is an essential trace element found in the human body. Most humans have about 10 or 20mg in their bodies.

What does it do for us?
Manganese has various functions within the human body. These are not all specific to manganese, that is, other vitamins and minerals can take its place for certain functions.

  • It helps to protect us against viruses and other infections by strengthening our cell walls. Manganese may also produce "killer" cells that destroy diseased or infected cells.
  • It helps to create fatty acids and cholesterol, both necessary processes, as well as glycogen — a substance integral to energy and movement.
  • It helps to strengthen bones, collagen and connective tissue such as ligaments. Athletes may find they need manganese supplementation as it can help with joint lubrication.
  • It helps to promote normal nerve function. The nerves carry the messages from our brain to wherever they need to be.
  • As there is a significant amount of manganese in the pituitary gland, where sex hormones are manufactured, it is known to play a part in sexual function.
  • It helps to produce breast milk.

How do I know if I'm getting enough manganese?
If you suffer from muscle or bone weakness, it may be worth asking your doctor if you need to take a supplement. A lack of coordination and reflex may also indicate this, as well as impaired blood sugar levels and a partial inability to digest fats. A long-term lack of manganese may affect your body's ability to fight cancerous cells.

Children who have a severe deficiency in manganese may suffer from deafness, blindness or paralysis. This is of course rare.

Who benefits from manganese supplementation?
It's thought that arthritic people and some diabetics can benefit from extra manganese in their diets or through supplements. It may also help schizophrenia and people with dangerous levels of copper within their bodies.

It goes without saying that all of these illnesses can be very dangerous if left untreated and should always be treated by a medical professional. Don't self-diagnose and self-treat.

Manganese deficiency is rare in humans.

Can I eat too much manganese? It’s thought that the risk of excessive manganese consumption is low, as the body normally rids itself of excess amounts quite efficiently. The recommended daily intake of it is between 1.5 and 5mg a day, with therapeutic doses coming in between 5 and 10mg daily.

Where can I find manganese from natural sources?
Try stepping up your intake of nuts and whole grains. Tea is also a rich source, as are avocados. Other fruit and vegetables contain less significant amounts.

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