When we talk about dietary minerals, we usually discuss calcium, iron, zinc or magnesium. However, we forget that there are a whole variety of trace minerals that we get from our diets in small amounts that are just as important to our health.

Manganese is one of these trace minerals. Only tiny amounts are required to maintain a healthy body, but manganese plays on outsized role in well being. No more than 20 mg of manganese can be found in our body, mostly concentrated in the pancreas, kidneys, liver, and bones.

Manganese is vital for many physiologic processes such as antioxidant protection, carbohydrate metabolism, amino acid synthesis and breakdown, and cholesterol metabolism.

5 Musculoskeletal Benefits of Manganese


1. Manganese Supports Joint Health

Manganese is the preferred co-factor for enzymes called glycosyltransferases. As the name implies, glyco means relating to sugar; transfer means to move from one place to another; and ase means a biologic enzyme. This group of enzymes move sugars to and from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

These biologic agents are necessary for the manufacturing of the all-important cartilage extracellular matrix proteoglycans and glycoaminoglycans, examples of which are Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate. These molecules equip cartilage with the attributes needed resist compressive loads.

Additionally, manganese is a required co-factor for prolidase, a rate limiting enzyme for the biosynthesis of collagen. Prolidase acts to recycle proline from used up collagen. Proline is a key structural ingredient of collagen; without it collagen cannot be synthesized.


Mseleni Disease is an osteoarthritis-like ailment endemic to a remote part of Zululand in South Africa. Some research estimates 1 out of 4 women over 50 living in this region are burdened by this cartilage demolishing disease. Although scientists do not know the exact causes of this disease, the paucity of manganese intake in the victim’s traditional diet has suggested a manganese connection. 


To further asses a link between manganese and osteoarthritis, navy researchers investigated the effectiveness of treatment cocktail that included a combination of manganese, vitamin C, glucosamine, and chondroitin in the treatment of osteoarthritis. These scientists performed a 16-week randomized, double-blind placebo controlled study. At the completion of the study, the treatment group reported statistically significant decreased pain and improved function. While, it’s challenging to parse out manganese’s exact contribution, the study’s authors suggest manganese may be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis. (Leffler et al. Mil Med.  1999 Feb;164(2):8591.)


2. Manganese Boosts Bone Health

Animal research suggests manganese positively influences the thickness of bone, its architecture, and its rigidity. Healthful manganese levels magnify the health benefits of estrogen and insulin growth life factor-1. Both are powerful hormones that exert positive effects on bone density and bone architecture.

Additionally, manganese is key to the synthesis of collagen. Bone’s organic component is 90% collagen, so healthy bone starts with healthy collagen.


Czech researchers found a positive association between serum manganese levels and bone mineral density, and a negative correlation between serum manganese and the number of fractures in a group of 40 post-menopausal women (Zofková I, Nemcikova P, Matucha P. Trace elements and bone health.Clin Chem Lab Med. 2013 Aug;51(8):1555-61. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2012-0868. Review.)


3. Manganese is a Powerful Antioxidant

Manganese is a vital component of properly functioning superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase is one of the body’s best defenses against free radicals derived from hyper reactive oxygen.

Manganese pairs up with superoxide dismutase in the mitochondria: the power generator of the cell. It’s in the mitochondria that the majority of free radicals are generated. In the absence of sufficient manganese, the mitochondria might be overwhelmed by destructive oxygen radicals that results in permanent damage to the cell. 

There is a solid scientific consensus that mitochondrial injury is a driving force behind cellular aging and a risk factor for chronic degenerative disease such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and sarcopenia.

Moreover, manganese is able to act as a direct antioxidant. Certain manganese complexes terminate the unconstrained oxidation of cell wall fat referred to as lipid peroxidation.


To exam manganese’s antioxidant potential, researchers administered manganese to the joints of rats. Using cutting-edge techniques, the researchers were able to determine that the rats experienced less joint pain, cartilage damage, and inflammation. (Di Cesare Mannelli, L., Bani, D., Bencini, A., Brandi, M. L., Calosi, L., Cantore, M., & ... Failli, P. (2013). Therapeutic effects of the superoxide dismutase mimetic compound MnIIMe2DO2A on experimental articular pain in rats. Mediators of Inflammation, 2013, 1-11. doi:10.1155/2013/905360)


4. Manganese Promotes Tendon Health

High energy free radicals damage healthy tendon tissue. Manganese possesses antioxidant attributes that helps tendon tissue neutralize destructive free radicals.

Additionally, collagen is a critical component of healthy tendons. Manganese dependent enzymes are required for the synthesis of collagen. A deficiency in manganese would result in insufficient collagen levels and insufficient collagen leads to inferior tendon architecture.

5. Manganese Enhances Muscle Health

Healthy, vibrant muscle cells are important for sustaining strength, endurance, and function. Muscle cells possess large amounts of mitochondria. As the primary energy generator of the cell, mitochondria generate many free radicals. Excessive exposure to free radicals causes premature aging of muscle. Manganese's powerful anti-oxidant properties helps protect vulnerable muscle cells.


Other Health Benefits

There are other conditions that manganese may assist, although more research is needed and for some conditions results to date have been mixed. Those include:

  • Supports Healthy Blood Sugar
  • Boosts Healthy Skin


Top Natural Sources of Manganese

Nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits are excellent sources of manganese.




Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

No RDA for manganese have been established. In absence of RDA, Adequate Intake (AI) is used as a guide. The daily Adequate Intake (AI) levels for manganese are:

  • Infants 0-6 months - 3 mcg
  • Infants 7-12 months - 600 mcg
  • Children 1-3 years - 1.2 mg
  • Children 4-8 years - 1.5 mg
  • Boys 9-13 years - 1.9 mg
  • Boys 14-18 years - 2.2 mg
  • Girls 9-18 years - 1.6 mg
  • Men 19 years and older - 2.3 mg
  • Women 19 years and older - 1.8 mg
  • Pregnant women age 14 to 50 years - 2 mg
  • Breastfeeding women - 2.6 mg



Manganese from natural foods is generally well tolerated. RDA amounts can be obtained from a balanced, healthful diet. 

The FNB has published an upper limit value of 11 mg /day. 

Excessive intake of supplemental manganese may cause neurologic symptoms.

Any consideration a supplementation should be discussed with a qualified health professional familiar with your unique medical history.


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 Lucas J. Bader MD

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