Like zinc and copper, manganese is a trace element that can profoundly affect bone
health. Yet for a long time it was one of the most overlooked nutrients, and to
date no RDA for manganese has been established.
One reason cited for this lack of an RDA in the past was that scientists weren’t
really sure what people’s typical manganese intakes were. It appears manganese
intake can vary widely depending on basic food choices. For example, we now know
that intake of manganese is greatly reduced when whole grains are replaced in the
diet with foods made from refined flour. This gives us pause because grain products
constitute nearly 40% of our daily manganese intake. Beverages (particularly tea)
contribute about 20%, and vegetables less than 20%. Other dietary patterns can inhibit
the absorption of manganese, such as getting too much calcium, phosphorus, iron,
In recent decades research has uncovered the special role manganese plays as a co-factor
in the formation of bone cartilage and bone collagen, as well as in bone mineralization.
Osteoporotic changes in bone can be brought about by manganese deficiency, which
appears to increase bone breakdown while decreasing new bone mineralization. Blood
levels of manganese of severely osteoporotic women were found in a Belgian study
to be just one-fourth those of non-osteoporotic women their same age. What’s
more, of the 25 variables studied, only manganese was significantly different between
the two groups. Fortunately, manganese deficiency is relatively easy to address
and dietary sources are extremely safe.
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