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Manganese and your health

Some essential nutrients are more important than others; one that is more important than what most people think is manganese (Mn). Soil levels of this micro-mineral are on decline, and food processing takes care of biting off another big chunk of what was supposed to get to your body. The fact that manganese is not easily absorbed - especially when the stomach acid is low - doesn't make things any better.

Why should you be concerned about your manganese intake?

Manganese is needed for important metabolic processes in your body, including those controlling blood sugar, cholesterol, protein metabolism, adrenal function, bone formation, as well as neural and muscle function (among others, it is needed by choline acetyl transferase, an enzyme necessary for the synthesis of major neurotransmitter acetylcholine), to name a few. It also has potent estrogenic effect (it is estrogen mimic).

Thus manganese deficiency can result in hypoglycemia, osteoporosis, postmenopausal symptoms, postnatal depression, and other ailments. Also, it can negatively affect nerve cell pathology, in some ways similar to Alzheimer's.

The key antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD) - the variety protecting the cellular energy factory, mitochondrion - is manganese dependant.

Manganese is needed for absorption of its cellular buddy iron, as well as magnesium, so its deficiency can result in their deficiencies as well.

Body level of manganese and iron influence the stomach acid level: high level of these two minerals increase acidity and absorption, and the other way around. This can affect absorption and body levels of another two major minerals, calcium and magnesium, whose absorption and cellular level tend to decline with elevated stomach acid. The consequences for the overall health can be significant.

While excessive manganese intake is not likely, it is possible. It's been considered relatively harmless, but longer term excess is linked to neurological symptoms similar to Parkinson's13. Elevated manganese (and iron) levels in the body can indicate liver dysfunction, due to damage caused by medications, alcohol, infections, heavy metals, or herbal agents.

Manganese DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes, the most recent set of dietary recommendations set by the government) for an average healthy adult is set at 2.3mg a day. Optimum intake is probably higher for the majority of people, at  4-5mg a day level. Short-term therapeutic doses may exceed 200mg a day.

Best natural manganese food sources are whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits.