What is Manganese? Let’s Explain This Magical Mineral
Although manganese is a word heard fairly often in health discussions, I’m guessing there are few people who could accurately answer the question, “What is manganese?”
Manganese has over time been associated with magic, magnetism and metabolism. We now know that only one of these three things is true (please let it be magic or another fairy will die!).
During the time of its discovery, manganese was confused with elements and compounds such as iron and magnesia (a non-specific term for magnesium-like substances).
It was also associated with the Greek word for ‘magic’; and incorrectly thought to be magnetic.
By process of elimination, the answer then must be metabolism, but that still doesn’t tell us, just what is manganese?
Manganese is a silverish-gray metal that is essential, in small amounts, for the human body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
It works as a cofactor, helping a wide range of enzymes function and underpinning many important bodily processes.
It’s vital for healthy antioxidant levels, bone mineralisation, wound healing and tissue repair, though too much can be toxic.
Abnormal concentrations of manganese in the brain, especially in the basal ganglia, are associated with neurological disorders similar to Parkinson's disease.
Manganese acts as a neurotoxin in larger amounts, especially through inhalation. It can also cause manganism, a condition in mammals leading to neurological damage that is sometimes irreversible.
Understanding the movement and action of manganese in synapses may be important to clarify the function and toxicity of manganese in the brain. Clearly, more scientific research needs to be conducted, especially when it comes to the human brain.
With that in mind, all living organisms still need manganese in some quantity - even seemingly inanimate plants, as manganese has a function in their oxygen-evolving photosynthesis.
In biology, manganese ions act as cofactors for a large variety of enzymes with many functions.
Manganese enzymes are particularly essential in detoxification of superoxide free radicals in organisms that must deal with elemental oxygen.
What Is Manganese Required For In The Body?
In the body, manganese is required for:
✔ Protecting mitochondria
Mitochondria are tiny energy factories inside the cell, pumping out ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). This process is necessary to sustain life - however, it also creates a lot of free-radicals.
Luckily, the body makes its own antioxidants to help neutralize them, with manganese playing an especially important role in creating Manganese Superoxide Dismutase (MnSOD), protector of mitochondria!
Without adequate manganese, mitochondria suffer increased oxidative stress, generate less energy and ultimately malfunction, affecting the health of every cell.
✔ Metabolism and energy production
Without manganese, the body can’t metabolize (break down and use) carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Manganese acts as a cofactor for enzymes that help us derive energy and nutrients from food.
The CoQ10 content in Athletic Greens has a similar function for maintaining a healthy metabolism. The two working together are a perfect match.
✔ Bone health and development
Manganese is required for strong, well-formed bones.
Not only do trace minerals work together with calcium to maintain bone density, manganese also acts as a cofactor for enzymes called glycosyltransferases. These enzymes help create proteoglycans (molecules containing proteins and sugars) that act as the building blocks for tissue such as bone.
Manganese aids calcium, phosphorus and magnesium for all round bone health, and you guessed it, they can all be found in Athletic Greens.
What Is Manganese Traditionally Used To Aid?
Manganese has been therapeutically useful for a variety of conditions such as:
→ Healthy skin and wound healing
Manganese is required for the function of an enzyme called prolidase, which in turn creates collagen. Collagen makes skin elastic, plump and youthful - with manganese necessary for maintaining this effect.
This is also why manganese is associated with faster wound healing, along with the grapeseed extract, zinc and vitamin C found in Athletic Greens.
Most manganese is found in bone, a clue as to its role in skeletal health. Trace minerals such as manganese work with calcium to maintain bone density. A deficiency of manganese has been linked to higher incidence of osteoporosis in women.
Manganese plays an important role in glucose metabolism, and deficiency is linked with blood sugar abnormalities. MnSOD deficiency may contribute to diabetic complications, with more research required to confirm if manganese supplementation is beneficial
This is a tricky one. While manganese may not directly cause epilepsy, there appears to be a relationship between the two, so caution is advised. Some signs indicate that manganese supplementation may actually help prevent epileptic seizures, so in this regard it could be considered an acute treatment.
Clearly this requires more research before any kind of recommendation is made. Given that we know manganese affects the synapses in the brain, hopefully science will provide us with conclusive studies sooner rather than later.
It is fair to say that the adverse effects of manganese are experienced in a minority of people and that the beneficial aspects of having manganese in our systems outweighs the potential threats.
What Is Manganese’s Optimal Dose?
Manganese - in keeping with its mysterious history - remains lacking in evidence to definitely prove its benefits for human health.
It’s undeniably essential as a cofactor, for antioxidant protection and bone, tissue and skin health, but more research is required to determine the optimal dose, and how it can be applied in diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy.
Cautions exist for young children, those with liver disease or experiencing iron-deficiency (as manganese may compete with iron for absorption).
As we have explored, manganese can cause irreversible neurological damage and Parkinson’s-like symptoms if inhaled, yet potentially, can play a beneficial role in the treatment of neurological conditions.
When safely ingesting manganese for bone health and its many other previously mentioned benefits, you can start at 5 mg per day, with an upper limit for adults of 11 mg daily.
It is not the most common supplement and is usually taken as part of a multivitamin or bone health formula rather than in isolation, however, it is sometimes confused with magnesium due to the similarity of the word.
It can be obtained naturally from pineapple, pecans, whole grains, leafy green vegetables and some teas - although absorption may be affected by chemicals such as oxalates and tannins.
Manganese has been included in Athletic Greens as it is uncommon in most western diets, although an important mineral that plays many roles in the body. Manganese deficiency can have some serious consequences.
So when asked, what is manganese? You now know it is not magic alone, but a magical mineral, vital to the health of all species.