Manganese: Overview

Sometimes called a "cell protector", the name manganese comes from the Greek word for magic, because it was thought to have magical properties.  Manganese is a metal that occurs widely in plant and animal tissues; it is called a trace element because it is only found in very small quantities in the human body.  Our bodies store approximately 20mg of manganese, mostly in the bones.

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Manganese is widely distributed metal, making up nearly 0.1% of the earth's crust.  As a dietary mineral it is less well understood than calcium and magnesium, as far as its absorption and transport dynamics.  Manganese is required in several metallo-enzymatic reactions such as superoxide dismutase, an enzyme used to resolve highly damaging superoxide free-radicals.  Manganese is also required for proper bone and cartilage formation and some reports have shown that women with osteoporosis tend to have low blood manganese levels.

Deficiency is associated with atherosclerosis (fibrous, fatty plaques on the artery walls), and hypercholesterolemia (high levels of fat in the blood).

History; Source

The importance of manganese to good health wasn't realized until the 1970s, when the first manganese deficiency was recorded.

Manganese is predominantly stored in the bones, liver, kidney, and pancreas.  It is not yet known exactly how magnesium is absorbed in the body, although its availability seems to be tied in some way to iron absorption; increased amounts of iron in the diet usually coincide with decreased manganese levels.  This is probably why men, who usually have higher iron levels than women, generally absorb less manganese.  Taking magnesium supplements has also been shown to inhibit manganese absorption.

Manganese is found in large quantities in plants and animals, but very little of this element is found in human tissue.

Good natural sources of manganese include avocados, nuts and seeds, seaweed, tea, raisins, pineapple, spinach, broccoli, oranges, beans, whole grains and cereals, blueberries, dried peas, whole wheat breads, and green leafy vegetables.

Animal sources include egg yolks and liver.

Many herbs also contain manganese, such as alfalfa, burdock root, chamomile, dandelion, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, horsetail, lemongrass, parsley, peppermint, wild yam, and raspberry.

One combination product used for bone/joint health contains chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and manganese ascorbate.  There are also several stand-alone forms of supplementary manganese to choose from, including manganese gluconate, manganese sulfate, manganese ascorbate and manganese amino acid chelates.

Supplemental manganese levels vary from 5mg to 50mg.  Manganese can be found in arthritis, osteoporosis and antioxidant formulations; among others.

  • Manganese aspartate: The salt form of manganese with aspartic acid.
  • Manganese ascorbate: The salt form of manganese with ascorbic acid.  This form, yielding 20% manganese by weight, is used when vitamin C activity is desired in the supplement.
  • Manganese Chelate (amino acid): A form of manganese that has been reacted with 1 or more amino acids.  This allows the manganese to be absorbed via the amino acid pathway, rather than the active transport method for manganese.
  • Manganese Citrate: A salt form of manganese with citric acid.  This form yields 30% manganese by weight.

Function; Why it is Recommended

Manganese is necessary for bone growth, reproduction, skin, ligament formation, blood clotting, wound healing, peak brain function and the proper metabolism of cholesterol, sugars and insulin.  It is also an enzyme activator and is said to help in the utilization of vitamin B1.  An important antioxidant, manganese is one of the minerals required to form SOD (superoxide dismutase), one of the "bodyguard" enzymes that protects against unstable, cell-damaging free radicals. [Trace Elements, Micronutrients and Free Radicals, 1992, pp.107-27]

Although researchers today are still studying this mineral, they know it has antioxidant properties and is needed to activate a number of enzymes that allow the body to digest food.  Manganese helps the body absorb vitamin B1 (thiamin) and vitamin E, and works with all B-complex vitamins to combat depression, anxiety, and other nervous disorders.

Manganese is:

Manganese can help reduce fatigue levels, prevent the incidence and severity of osteoporosis, and even improve memory.

Manganese is a trace mineral that helps the body convert protein and fat to energy.  It also helps maintain healthy reproductive, nervous, and immune systems, and is involved in blood sugar regulation.  In addition, manganese is involved in blood clotting and the formation of cartilage and lubricating fluid in the joints.

Manganese has been reported to reduce heavy menstrual flows and improve thyroid function (thyroid function is dependent on a balance of manganese and iodine, and a shortage of either could cause hypothyroidism).

Manganese is also linked to decreased superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in white blood cells, which leaves the body more vulnerable to the damaging effects of free-radicals.

Manganese not only increases the effectiveness of vitamin E and B vitamins, but supplements have been shown to increase the effectiveness of glucosamine supplements, which have been helpful to some people suffering from arthritis.

Manganese is used in the following conditions:


Although no US RDA has been established for manganese, the National Research Council has estimated that a safe and adequate daily dietary intake of manganese for adults should range from 2 to 5mg per day.  Although many people consume less than this, obvious deficiencies are uncommon.

Manganese is poorly absorbed orally and so should be given long term and/or by injection when indicated.  While only 5mg is needed per day, the patient may need as much as 300mg of manganese in the gluconate form to attain the normal blood level of 15ppb.


Toxicity is rare, but its symptoms may include: lethargy, involuntary movements, posture problems and eventually coma.  Manganese is one of the least toxic trace mineral as it is readily excreted from the body.

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Manganese can help with the following:


Not recommended for


Myasthenia Gravis

Manganese deficiency has been linked to myasthenia gravis.  Manganese activates several enzyme systems and supports the utilization of vitamin C, E, choline, and other B-vitamins.  Inadequate choline utilization reduces acetylcholine synthesis, contributing to conditions such as myasthenia gravis.


Hemochromatosis (Iron overload)

Manganese can protect against the free radical damage from excess iron. [Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 1992; 13: pp.115-20]

Environment / Toxicity

Copper Toxicity

Vitamin C, zinc and manganese all interfere with copper absorption.


Histapenia (Histamine Low)

Copper levels are usually elevated in patients with histapenia.  Manganese and zinc supplementation increase copper excretion.

Lab Values


Syndrome X / Metabolic Syndrome

This trace mineral is needed for various enzymes to work, and is essential for nerve health and normal insulin function.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Manganese functions in the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (manganese SOD), which is deficient in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.  Manganese supplementation has been shown to increase SOD activity, indicating increased antioxidant activity.  A good dosage for a manganese supplementation is 5 to 15mg per day.

Nervous System

Tardive Dyskinesia

See the link between Tardive Dyskinesia and Melatonin.


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