When you think of essential micronutrients for optimal health, the first things that come to mind are probably vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, calcium, and iron. But what about manganese? While it may not be as well-known as some of the other essential micronutrients, manganese is just as important for maintaining good health and preventing disease.
Manganese is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in various physiological processes in the human body. This element is naturally present in a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains, and is also found in small amounts in drinking water. While manganese is required in trace amounts, it is vital for the proper functioning of several enzymes and proteins that are involved in energy metabolism, bone development, and immune function, among others.
In this article, we will delve into the importance of manganese for health, the recommended daily intake, the potential health benefits, and the risks associated with deficiency or excess intake. We will also discuss the dietary sources of manganese, the absorption and utilization of this mineral in the body, and the role of manganese in various physiological processes.
The Importance of Manganese for Health
Manganese is an essential mineral that is required in small amounts for the proper functioning of several enzymes and proteins in the body. Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions in the body, while proteins play several structural and functional roles in the body. Manganese is required for the synthesis of several enzymes and proteins involved in various physiological processes, including:
Manganese is a component of several enzymes involved in energy metabolism, such as pyruvate carboxylase, which converts pyruvate into oxaloacetate, a critical step in the production of energy from carbohydrates. Manganese is also required for the synthesis of the enzyme arginase, which converts the amino acid arginine into ornithine and urea, a process that plays a crucial role in the removal of toxic ammonia from the body.
Manganese is essential for the proper development and maintenance of healthy bones. This mineral is required for the synthesis of the protein collagen, a critical component of bone tissue that provides strength and flexibility to bones. Manganese also activates the enzyme prolidase, which is involved in the recycling of collagen in the body.
Manganese is required for the proper functioning of several enzymes involved in immune function, such as superoxide dismutase, which scavenges free radicals and protects cells from oxidative damage. Manganese also plays a role in the synthesis of mucopolysaccharides, which are involved in the development and maintenance of healthy connective tissues, including those found in the immune system.
Manganese is involved in the synthesis of several hormones and enzymes that play a crucial role in reproductive health. For example, manganese is required for the synthesis of the hormone thyroxine, which regulates metabolism and plays a critical role in the development of the reproductive system.
Recommended Daily Intake of Manganese
The recommended daily intake of manganese varies depending on age and sex. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily intake of manganese for adults is:
- Men: 2.3 mg/day
- Women: 1.8 mg/day
- Pregnant women: 2.0 mg/day
- Breastfeeding women: 2.6 mg/day
Children and adolescents require smaller amounts of manganese, with recommended daily intakes ranging from 0.9 mg/day for infants to 1.9 mg/day for adolescent boys.
Dietary Sources of Manganese
Manganese is naturally present in a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables. Some of the best dietary sources of manganese include:
- Almonds: 1/4 cup of almonds contains 1.3 mg of manganese
- Spinach: 1 cup of cooked spinach contains 0.8 mg of manganese
- Brown rice: 1 cup of cooked brown rice contains 1.1 mg of manganese
- Black beans: 1 cup of cooked black beans contains 1.0 mg of manganese
- Quinoa: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 0.9 mg of manganese
- Whole wheat bread: 1 slice of whole wheat bread contains 0.6 mg of manganese
- Pineapple: 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks contains 0.6 mg of manganese
Other dietary sources of manganese include tea, cocoa, and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and turmeric. The absorption and utilization of manganese from plant-based foods is generally high, with absorption rates ranging from 20-50% depending on the food matrix and other dietary factors.
Absorption and Utilization of Manganese in the Body
The absorption and utilization of manganese in the body is a complex process that involves several factors, including dietary factors, physiological factors, and genetic factors.
The absorption of manganese from plant-based foods is generally high, with absorption rates ranging from 20-50% depending on the food matrix and other dietary factors. Factors that enhance the absorption of manganese include the presence of other minerals such as calcium, iron, and copper, which can form complexes with manganese and enhance its absorption in the gut. Vitamin C can also enhance the absorption of manganese by reducing it to a more absorbable form.
On the other hand, factors that inhibit the absorption of manganese include the presence of other dietary components such as phytic acid, oxalate, and fiber, which can form complexes with manganese and reduce its absorption. High intakes of these dietary components can reduce the bioavailability of manganese and increase the risk of deficiency.
The absorption and utilization of manganese in the body are also influenced by several physiological factors, including the presence of other minerals, hormones, and enzymes. For example, the absorption of manganese is enhanced by the presence of calcium, which can stimulate the release of the hormone calcitriol, which in turn enhances the absorption of manganese in the gut. Manganese is also absorbed in the small intestine and transported to the liver, where it is stored or released into the bloodstream as needed.
The absorption and utilization of manganese in the body are also influenced by genetic factors, including the expression of genes involved in the transport and utilization of manganese in the body. Mutations in these genes can impair the absorption or utilization of manganese, leading to deficiencies or excesses in the body.
Potential Health Benefits of Manganese
Manganese is required for the proper functioning of several enzymes and proteins in the body, and deficiencies or excesses in this mineral can lead to several health problems. Some of the potential health benefits of manganese include:
- Antioxidant Activity: Manganese is a component of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, which helps protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.
- Bone Health: Manganese is required for the synthesis of collagen, a critical component of bone tissue that provides strength and flexibility to bones. Manganese also activates the enzyme prolidase, which is involved in the recycling of collagen in the body. Low intakes of manganese have been associated with impaired bone growth and development, while excess intakes of this mineral have been associated with decreased bone density and increased risk of fractures.
- Blood Sugar Control: Manganese is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and the synthesis of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels in the body. Studies have shown that low intakes of manganese are associated with impaired glucose tolerance and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, some research suggests that manganese supplementation may improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. However, more studies are needed to confirm these findings.
- Brain Function: Manganese is involved in the synthesis of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a critical role in brain function and mood regulation. Studies have also suggested that manganese may protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, which are thought to contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
- Wound Healing: Manganese is required for the synthesis of collagen, which is essential for wound healing and tissue repair. Studies have shown that topical application of manganese can enhance wound healing and reduce inflammation in animal models.
Risks Associated with Deficiency or Excess Intake of Manganese
While manganese is an essential mineral required for several physiological processes in the body, deficiencies or excesses in this mineral can lead to several health problems.
Manganese deficiency is rare in healthy individuals, as this mineral is present in a variety of foods, and the body can recycle manganese to conserve it. However, low intakes of manganese have been associated with several health problems, including impaired growth and development, skeletal abnormalities, impaired glucose tolerance, and decreased immune function.
Excess intakes of manganese can lead to several health problems, including neurological symptoms such as tremors, muscle stiffness, and impaired gait. This condition, known as manganism, is a rare but serious neurological disorder that has been observed in workers exposed to high levels of manganese in industrial settings. Excess manganese intake has also been associated with decreased bone density and increased risk of fractures.
It is important to note that the upper limit of manganese intake is 11 mg/day for adults, and excess intake of this mineral is rare in healthy individuals who consume a balanced diet. However, supplements and certain foods may contain high levels of manganese, and excessive intake of these sources may increase the risk of toxicity.
Manganese is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in several physiological processes in the body, including energy metabolism, bone development, immune function, and reproduction. This mineral is naturally present in a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains, and is required in small amounts for optimal health.
While deficiencies or excesses in manganese intake can lead to several health problems, a balanced diet that includes a variety of plant-based foods can provide adequate amounts of this mineral for most individuals. If you are concerned about your manganese intake or have a medical condition that affects your absorption or utilization of this mineral, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.
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