Manganese is a super important, slept-on mineral that most people don’t know much about. If you don’t get enough, you could end up with manganese deficiency — and you might not know it.
This mineral gives you energy, helps protect your cells from damage, and keeps your skeleton strong (remember, skeletons aren’t just for Halloween). It also helps with reproduction, blood clotting, and immune health.
However, manganese deficiency is super rare. The symptoms in folks who don’t get enough manganese aren’t really established yet.
Is manganese deficiency serious?
Most people get enough manganese from the food they eat. But when manganese levels fall out of whack, the trouble starts.
A shortage of manganese in your body can impair normal growth, reduce fertility levels, affect insulin levels, and cause metabolism issues.
However, it’s extremely rare not to get enough manganese.
So, how do you know whether you’re getting enough of this essential micronutrient? And what happens when you don’t?
A manganese deficiency is not easy to diagnose. Due to its rarity, medical scientists haven’t firmly established what manganese deficiency looks like in the body.
But very limited evidence points to the following as possible effects of manganese deficiency:
- skin rashes
- a loss of hair color, particularly in males
- rapid mood changes and more severe premenstrual pain in females (just what you needed 😑 )
Severe implications of a long-term deficiency include:
- bone formation probs and skeletal anomalies
- impaired growth
- reduced fertility and congenital disabilities
According to a 2020 review, manganese is also super important for the development and function of your nerves and brain. So not getting enough of the big M can wreak havoc on both — which can have other effects throughout your body.
Manganese combines with other elements to form an essential antioxidant enzyme in your body (think of the Megazord from “Power Rangers” but inside you). Antioxidants fight free radicals (evil molecules that contribute to disease) and keep those cells healthy and sparkling.
Manganese also works with several other enzymes that:
- promote bone and cartilage growth
- create insulin, which helps regulate your blood sugar levels
- give your metabolism a kick in the pants (letting you process glucose, amino acids, and cholesterol)
- support blood clotting
Scientists are still researching other possible benefits of manganese. A 2013 study on mice suggests it could help with blood sugar control in diabetes. However, research is ongoing and evidence is limited at this time.
Common causes of manganese deficiency
With manganese deficiency, there are no common causes. It’s so rare in humans that the National Institutes of Health doesn’t single out any specific groups of people who are more likely to have it than others.
The good news is that most foods we eat every day contain traces of manganese (*dabs and flosses accordingly*). Manganese deficiency is very rare. There’s actually more concern about manganese toxicity than deficiency — it’s important not to consume too much.
It’s always better to get your vitamin and mineral requirements from the food you eat rather than from supplements. But supplements are out there in the rare cases where your intake falls short of what you need.
The daily recommended amount for adults is 1.8 to 2.6 milligrams (mg) per day. The maximum amount for adults is 11 mg per day. The levels for children vary, depending on age.
It’s essential to talk with a medical professional before taking a supplement, since too much manganese can cause serious harm to your body.
Which foods are the best sources of manganese?
Try to include a wide variety of these manganese-rich foods in your diet:
- Grains: brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-wheat bread
- Seafood: clams, mussels, and oysters
- Nuts: hazelnuts and pecans
- Legumes: soybeans and lentils
- Fruits: pineapple and blueberries
- Leafy vegetables: kale and spinach FTW!
- Spices: pepper
A cuppa black tea will also hit that manganese spot. ☕️ 🎯
The NIH gives a detailed breakdown of manganese-rich foods and your required daily intake.
Manganese deficiency is rare, so signs of deficiency are not firmly established. Plus, some of the possible symptoms of manganese deficiency, like skin changes and mood changes, are vague and could very well have links to another health condition or nutrient deficiency.
This is why it’s important not to self-diagnose and to always seek advice from a healthcare professional if you think you may have a manganese deficiency.
The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements in the same way as medicines. So make sure you research reliable supplements that contain the ingredients they claim to.
If you think your eating habits aren’t providing the recommended daily amount of manganese, consult a healthcare pro like a registered dietitian or doctor to make sure your diet is actually deficient in manganese.
They can help you determine if a supplement is necessary and can help you look for a quality product that contains what it claims to on the packaging.
We found some great-tasting, versatile recipes to help you get your manganese levels back on track.
Manga-nice kale, pineapple, and banana smoothie
Start your day with this power-packed green smoothie. The pineapple, yogurt, banana, and honey disguise the taste of the kale. Plus, you get to enjoy a manganese-rich breakfast without even chewing! Bonus.
Manga-terranean brown rice salad
Follow this recipe for a Mediterranean brown rice salad. You can substitute some of the ingredients to suit your taste. We suggest adding some toasted, chopped hazelnuts or pecans for a manganese boost (and added crunch and flavor to boot).
For a quick, healthy, manganese-loaded snack, open a can of chickpeas, drain them well, and spread them on a sheet pan. Sprinkle those suckers with some olive oil and seasoning and coat them evenly.
Roast for 10 to 15 minutes in a medium to hot oven, checking them from time to time to avoid burning. (For specifics, check out the recipes here.)
You don’t need a special recipe to get a manganese boost. You can maximize the manganese by adding ingredients to a variety of dishes:
- Add some finely chopped raw spinach to a potato salad. The spinach is a good garnish and is rich in manganese.
- Add shredded spinach and roasted chickpeas to a green salad.
- Add canned or dried beans or lentils to soups, curries, and stews for an extra manganese boost. (If using dried ones, soak them overnight before adding them.)
Your bod doesn’t make any manganese, so you gotta get it from your diet. Once you consume it, your body stores manganese in organs like your liver, kidney, and pancreas, as well as in your bone tissue.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll have too much manganese floating around unless you’ve introduced certain other elements. The people at risk for manganese overdose are those who:
- work in mining and welding environments and inhale manganese dust from the air
- drink contaminated water from wells or rivers
- have iron deficiency anemia
- live with chronic liver disease (since the liver can’t filter excess manganese)
- have substance use disorders
In the long term, high concentrations of manganese mainly affect the central nervous system. Symptoms include tremors, muscle spasms, tinnitus or hearing loss, and a feeling of instability.
These symptoms can progress into physical effects similar to those of Parkinson’s disease.
Manganese is a powerful mineral that helps strengthen your brain and body.
Given how rare it is not to get enough manganese, scientists have found it hard to narrow down symptoms. However, research suggests that manganese deficiency may cause rashes, mood swings, and a loss of hair color in men. It can also make PMS symptoms worse. Which, y’know, absolutely no one needs.
Taking unnecessary supplements can cause an overdose of manganese, which will lead to serious health issues.
If you’re in good health and eating a nutritious diet, you shouldn’t need manganese supplements. You can get a whole range of vitamins and minerals with extra flavors to boot.