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Manganese is a micronutrient that you don't hear much about. But manganese, which has antioxidant, free-radical-fighting properties, is important for proper food digestion and for normal bone structure.

What are some of the benefits of manganese? Manganese can help reduce fatigue levels, prevent the incidence and severity of osteoporosis, and even improve memory.

Manganese is a trace mineral that helps the body convert protein and fat to energy. It also promotes normal bone growth, helps maintain healthy reproductive, nervous, and immune systems, and is involved in blood sugar regulation. In addition, manganese is involved in blood clotting and the formation of cartilage and lubricating fluid in the joints.

Manganese is found in large quantities in plants and animals, but very little of this element is found in human tissue. In fact, the importance of manganese to good health wasn’t realized until the 1970s, when the first manganese deficiency was recorded.

Although researchers today are still studying this mineral, they know it has antioxidant properties and is needed to activate a number of enzymes that allow the body to digest food. Manganese helps the body absorb vitamin B1 (thiamin) and vitamin E, and works with all B-complex vitamins to combat depression, anxiety, and other nervous disorders.

Manganese is predominantly stored in the bones, liver, kidney, and pancreas. It is not yet known exactly how magnesium in absorbed in the body, although its availability seems to be tied in some way to iron absorption; increased amounts of iron in the diet usually coincide with decreased manganese levels. This is probably why men, who usually have higher iron levels than women, generally absorb less manganese. Taking magnesium supplements has also been shown to inhibit manganese absorption.

Manganese has been reported to reduce heavy menstrual flows and improve thyroid function (thyroid function is dependent on a balance of manganese and iodine, and a shortage of either could cause hypothyroidism).

Good natural sources of manganese include avocados, nuts and seeds, seaweed, tea, raisins, pineapple, spinach, broccoli, oranges, beans, whole grains, blueberries, egg yolks, dried peas, and green leafy vegetables.

Many herbs also contain manganese, such as alfalfa, burdock root, chamomile, dandelion, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, horsetail, lemongrass, parsley, peppermint, wild yam, and raspberry.

There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for manganese, but 2.5 to 5.0 milligrams is safe and recommended for all those 11 years and older.

What are the dangers of not getting enough manganese? Manganese deficiency had been linked to infertility, bone malformation, weakness, seizures, atherosclerosis, confusion, convulsions, eye problems, hearing problems, heart disorders, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, irritability, memory loss, muscle contractions, pancreatic damage, profuse perspiration, rapid pulse, tooth-grinding, tremors, and osteoporosis.

Special Note: Manganese is also linked to decreased superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in white blood cells, which leaves the body more vulnerable to the damaging effects of free-radicals.

Manganese not only increases the effectiveness of vitamin E and B vitamins, but supplements have been shown to increase the effectiveness of glucosamine supplements, which have been helpful to some people suffering from arthritis.

One combination product used for bone/joint health contains chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and manganese ascorbate. There are also several stand-alone forms of supplementary manganese to choose from, including manganese gluconate, manganese sulfate, manganese ascorbate and manganese amino acid chelates.

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