Manganese Deficiency: Symptoms, Side Effects, and How to Avoid It

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Manganese deficiencyManganese is often underrated and doesn’t have the star power of other nutrients like calcium or vitamin B12. That said, manganese plays an extremely important role in the body and is found mostly in the bones, kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Manganese is also involved in many chemical processes, especially the synthesis of nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and cholesterol. Manganese deficiency can cause many symptoms and health issues.

Manganese is a trace mineral necessary in the formation of bones, connective tissue, sex hormones, and blood clotting. It is essential for calcium absorption, normal brain and nerve function, digestive enzyme production, immune health, and blood sugar regulation. Needless to say, manganese is crucial for nearly every aspect of health.

Symptoms of Manganese Deficiency and Toxicity

For the most part, manganese deficiency is considered rare in most developed nations where malnourishment is often not a problem. Also, in most cases, humans can maintain stable tissue levels of manganese because the body can closely monitor the manganese it stores through absorption and excretion.

As a result, manganese deficiency is often due to a lack of manganese-rich foods in the diet. Also, chronic digestive disorders make it more difficult for the body to absorb manganese. What happens to a body with manganese deficiency?

Common manganese deficiency symptoms include:

  • Anemia
  • Weak bones (osteoporosis)
  • Poor immunity and getting sick often
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Worsened PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms
  • Impaired reproductive abilities or infertility
  • Impaired glucose sensitivity
  • Changes in appetite and digestion
  • Hormonal imbalances

On the other hand, excessive manganese can be a greater problem, especially in infants and children when the brain is still forming. However, manganese toxicity is still rare because only a small amount of manganese gets absorbed, and the rest is excreted into the gut via bile. The bigger risk of consuming too much manganese is the result of trouble eliminating and neutralizing manganese from the digestive, liver, or gut tissues.  Although rare, excessive manganese accumulation in the central nervous system can cause cognitive problems and birth defects.

5 Health Benefits of Manganese

What are the health benefits of manganese? Manganese is very important for various enzymes, including glutamine synthetase, arginase, and manganese superoxide. These enzymes work as antioxidants while helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress that can lead to cancer or heart disease. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), in particular, is sometimes called the “master antioxidant” because it is one of the major free radical damage-fighting enzymes in the body that can help slow the aging process.

Manganese also helps form important bone-building enzymes, such as xylosyltransferases and glycosyltransferases. It also plays a role with digestive enzymes that help turn compounds from food into usable nutrients, including amino acids and glucose. Manganese can also prevent infertility and anemia, balance iron levels, speed up wound healing capabilities, and support respiratory and lung health.

The following are five other key manganese health benefits you should consider.

1. Supports bone and joint health

Manganese can reduce bone loss and treat osteoporosis when combined with other bone-supporting nutrients like zinc, copper, magnesium, boron, calcium, and vitamin D. This is particularly useful for older women who are more susceptible to weak bones and bone fractures.

Natural treatments for arthritis include manganese supplements like chondroitin sulfate or glucosamine hydrochloride. Consumption of manganese-rich foods can also decrease inflammation in the tissue and joints, especially in the knees.

2. May promote weight loss

Some research indicates that a specific form of manganese called 7-Keto Naturalean may help decrease weight in overweight or obese individuals when combined with other supportive nutrients like potassium, copper, choline, L-tyrosine, and asparagus root extract. The reason for this is likely due to manganese’s ability to balance hormones and improve digestive enzymes.

3. Decreases PMS symptoms

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1993 found that women with reduced manganese levels experienced more mood and pain symptoms during PMS. High manganese and calcium in the diet can improve PMS symptoms, including trouble sleeping, anxiety, mood swings, muscle pain, and tenderness.

4. Helps cognitive function

Some of the body’s manganese supply is found in the brain’s synaptic vesicles, and therefore, manganese is closely linked with cognitive function. Manganese is released into the brain’s synaptic cleft, which affects synaptic neurotransmission. As a result, manganese deficiency can increase the risk of mood changes, learning disabilities, mental illness, and epilepsy.

5. Fights diabetes

Manganese is necessary for the production of digestive enzymes responsible for the process called gluconeogenesis. This process converts proteins into sugar and regulates blood sugar levels. As a result, manganese has been found to prevent high blood sugar levels that can lead to diabetes.

A 2013 study published in the journal Endocrinology found that manganese improves glucose tolerance, mitochondrial function, and insulin secretion in mice.

Recommended Daily Intake of Manganese

As with all nutrients, it is best to obtain manganese from whole foods rather than supplements. Whole foods contain a good combination of other nutrients that allow the body to function. How much manganese does the body require from the diet?

There isn’t a current standard recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for manganese. Instead, an adequate intake (AI) is used as a guide for daily nutrient consumption when there isn’t a USDA-regulated amount for a particular nutrient provided.

According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the following is the adequate intake levels for manganese on a daily basis:

  • Infants and babies 0 to 6 months: 3 micrograms
  • Infants and babies 7 to 12 months: 600 milligrams
  • Children 1 to 3 years: 1.2 milligrams
  • Children 4 to 8 years: 1.5 milligrams
  • Boys 9 to 13 years: 1.9 milligrams
  • Boys 14 to 18 years: 2.2 milligrams
  • Girls 9 to 18 years: 1.6 milligrams
  • Men 19 and older: 2.3 milligrams
  • Women 19 and older: 1.8 milligrams
  • Pregnant women 14 to 50: 2 milligrams
  • Lactating women: 2.6 milligrams

Top Food Sources of Manganese

What are the best manganese food sources? Manganese is highest in whole foods, especially legumes or beans, sprouted grains, and certain seeds and nuts. Certain vegetables and fruit, including spinach, pineapple, collard greens, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, beets, and kale also contain manganese. High magnesium foods also contain some iron, because both nutrients work together closely.

The following is a manganese foods chart that can help you learn what foods allow you to avoid manganese deficiency. The chart will help you become aware of what whole foods are highest in manganese.

Food Serving Size Amount (mg) Daily Value %
Teff 1 cup cooked 7.2 400.0%
Rye 1 cup cooked 4.3 238.0%
Pineapple 1 cup 2.6 128.0%
Brown rice 1 cup cooked 2.1 116.0%
Amaranth 1 cup cooked 2.1 116.0%
Spinach 1 cup 1.7 84.0%
Hazelnuts 1 ounce 1.5 83.0%
Adzuki beans 1 cup cooked 1.3 72.0%
Chickpeas 1 cup cooked 1.2 66.0%
Flaxseed 2 tablespoons 1.3 64.0%
Raspberries 1 cup 1.2 62.0%
Macademia nuts 1 ounce 1.1 61.0%
White beans 1 cup cooked 1.1 61.0%
Oats 1 cup cooked 0.98 54.0%
Collard greens 1 cup 1.1 53.5%
Black beans 1 cup cooked 0.70 38.0%
Cinnamon 2 teaspoons 0.80 38.0%
Romaine lettuce 2 cups 0.70 35.5%
Tofu 4 ounces 0.70 34.5%
Buckwheat 1 cup cooked 0.60 33.0%
Grapes 1 cup 0.70 33.0%
Swiss chard 1 cup 0.60 29.0%
Beets 1 cup 0.60 27.5%
Kale 1 cup 0.50 27.0%
Garlic 1 ounce 0.50 23.5%
Strawberries 1 cup 0.40 21.0%
Summer squash 1 cup 0.40 19.0%
Broccoli 1 cup 0.30 17.0%

Possible Manganese Concerns

In most cases, it is rare to consume too much manganese from the diet, and usually, people will get too much of it from supplementation. For instance, certain osteoarthritis supplements will include manganese in the form of glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate. As a result, an adult can exceed the daily manganese threshold or tolerable upper limit of 11 milligrams.

It is also a good idea to consult a doctor before taking manganese supplements for those with a history of anemia or alcoholism, people that have trouble flushing manganese from their system, and those with liver disease. In such cases, manganese can build up, which worsens the liver disease and causes dizziness, shaking, and mental problems. Also, people with anemia are likely to absorb higher manganese levels, and should be cautious of how much manganese they consume.

Another possible serious side effect of consuming more than 11 milligrams of manganese daily is neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Always follow dosage directions carefully when taking supplements with manganese. It is also a good idea to check your manganese level with a blood test before taking high doses of manganese.

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Penland, J.G., et al., “Dietary calcium and manganese effects on menstrual cycle symptoms,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, May 1993; 168(5): 1417-1423.
Lee, S.H., et al., “Manganese supplementation protects against diet-induced diabetes in wild type mice by enhancing insulin secretion,” Endocrinology, March 2013; 154(3): 1029-1038, doi: 10.1210/en.2012-1445.