Manganese is a mineral that is important for human health. This article describes in detail the uses and health benefits associated with this mineral. Research discussing its antioxidant, cognitive, and cellular benefits is included in the article. The article also discusses the role of manganese in bone and joint health, citing the results of scientific studies to support all claims that it makes.
Manganese is found in some foods, and people sometimes take it as a dietary supplement. According to the University of Michigan Health Library, manganese is a mineral that is essential for blood sugar regulation as well as for the creation of skin, bone, and cartilage . Because it is an essential mineral, manganese plays an important role in health, and researchers have conducted studies with it to determine its specific uses and benefits.
The Antioxidant Capacity of Manganese
Manganese can enhance health because of its antioxidant properties. In a 2008 report in the Journal ofCereal Science, nutrition researchers from France indicated that cereal is protective against diseases such as cancer, because it contains nutrients, including manganese, which have an antioxidant effect .
Early research with manganese has suggested that it has a strong antioxidant potential. Scientists from the University of Padua and the University of Udine in Italy conducted a study to evaluate the antioxidant capacity of manganese and various other metals. The results of the study, which were published in a 1992 edition of the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics indicated that some of the metals had no antioxidant potential, but manganese was found to have a strong antioxidant effect. In fact, it had the highest antioxidant ability of any metals that the scientists tested . Based upon this research, it is clear that manganese is a powerful antioxidant.
Manganese and Cognitive Functioning
Manganese has a strong antioxidant potential, and it could potentially improve cognitive functioning, according to the research. In a 2010 study in HumanPsychopharmacology: Clinical & Experimental, researchers from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom assessed the effects of a multivitamin, containing 1.8 milligrams of manganese as well as other vitamins and minerals, on cognitive performance. Participants in the study took either the multivitamin or a placebo, and study results showed that those who took the multivitamin displayed fewer negative effects related to mood and fatigue when completing mentally challenging tasks. They were also more accurate on an assessment of multi-tasking ability . Taking a multivitamin containing manganese could therefore boost mental performance.
While the previously mentioned study assessed manganese in combination with other vitamins and minerals, additional research with children suggests that manganese is specifically implicated in cognition. In a 2013 study in the journal Environmental Research, scientists assessed the relationship between manganese levels and cognition in children. The study was conducted in the Republic of Korea, and results showed that children with low levels of manganese in their blood scored lower on the Stroop test, which assesses attention and executive functioning .
Manganese does seem to be related to cognitive functioning, but those who take it as a supplement should exercise caution, as excessive levels of manganese can be damaging to the brain. In the aforementioned study in Environmental Research, elevated manganese levels were associated with poorer performance on cognitive tasks. A third study with manganese has confirmed this finding. In a 1999 study in Neuroscience Letters, researchers affiliated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found that manganese increased brain activity in rats and demonstrated a protective effect against oxidative damage, but they cautioned that high levels of manganese could be toxic to the brain . Taking a manganese supplement can improve cognitive functioning among people who are deficient or who do not get adequate amounts of this mineral in their diet, but it is important to avoid exceeding the recommended daily intake of manganese to evade toxic effects.
Manganese for Enhanced Cell Functioning
In addition to its links with cognitive functioning, manganese seems to benefit cell functioning in several ways. Research dating back several decades has indicated that manganese can enhance the activity of immune system cells. In 1985, a study in the journal Immunopharmacology assessed the impact of manganese on mice. The authors of the study, who worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, found that manganese improved the functioning of macrophages, important immune system cells that break down invaders, including foreign substances and cancer cells . Manganese seems to benefit cellular activity in the immune system.
Manganese also improves the functioning of cells that process energy. In 2013, researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Utah conducted a study with mice for publication in the journal Endocrinology. They found that when they supplemented mice with manganese, the mice experienced reduced blood glucose levels when compared to mice not supplemented; they also demonstrated better functioning of their mitochondrial cells as well as increased insulin secretion. By enhancing the activities of cells that regulate insulin, manganese can help to maintain blood glucose within normal levels and protect the body from diabetes .
Bone and Joint Health Improved with Manganese
Beyond its benefits for cell functioning, manganese can promote healthy bones and joints. In a 2008 study in Biological Trace Elements Research, scientists affiliated with Sookmyung Women’s University and Kangwon National University in South Korea conducted a study with rats to determine the effects of manganese on bone mineral density. They found that when rats received a manganese supplement, they demonstrated increased bone mineral density in the lumbar region of their vertebrae. They also displayed higher levels of osteocalcin, a marker linked to the formation of new bone . This research provides convincing evidence that manganese promotes healthy bones.
Similarly, manganese plays an important role in joint health. In 1999, researchers from the Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Eastern Virginia Medical School conducted a study with U.S. Navy members who were suffering from chronic pain. They provided a supplement containing a combination of glucosamine, chondroitin, and manganese. The results of their study, which were published in Military Medicine, showed that the supplement was effective for treating knee osteoarthritis, as evidenced by an improvement in total disease score and on a physical examination . When used in combination supplements, manganese can improve the health of joints, such as the knee.
Manganese supplements can promote joint health, in addition to providing numerous other benefits. The research has shown that manganese has antioxidant effects, which likely contribute to its health-promoting properties. As the studies have shown, manganese improves cell functioning, increases bone mineral density, and enhances cognitive performance. Those who are deficient in manganese or whose diets do not contain sufficient levels of this mineral would benefit from supplementation to maintain cellular, cognitive, and bone and joint health. It is important to be cautious with supplementation and to avoid excessive amounts of manganese, as levels above the recommended daily intake can be toxic.
Benefits of Manganese for the Skin
The research with manganese suggests that it could be beneficial for skin health, especially in cases of acne. A 2009 study in the Journal of Kerbala University, authored by scientists from Babylon University, found that patients with acne had decreased levels of manganese in their blood when compared to typical manganese levels . This suggests that individuals with acne may be in need of manganese supplementation to assist in the treatment of acne. A second study, conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, found that manganese could protect the skin from aging. Study results, which were published in a 2007 edition of the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, showed that a cream containing manganese improved the appearance of skin that was damaged by the sun; skin damage was moderate at the start of the study and mild after 12 weeks of treatment with the manganese cream .
Manganese and Hair Growth
Beyond its benefits for the skin, some research suggests that manganese could be implicated in hair growth among people with a condition called alopecia, which involves hair loss. A 2009 study conducted within the Department of Animal Medicine at Benha University showed that sheep with alopecia had significantly lower levels of manganese, and the study authors concluded that alopecia occurs as a result of a deficiency in trace elements . A study titled “Determination of zinc, copper, iron and manganese contents in hair for MPA patients and healthy men”found that men with alopecia had significantly lower levels of manganese when compared to men with healthy hair . Supplementation with manganese could therefore be necessary to treat alopecia and promote hair growth.